Having spoken to a number of my friends in the tech business, their first reaction to the new iPad Pro is that, once again, Apple is showing up to the party after everyone else and claiming to have organised it.
And, in a sense, I’m inclined to agree with some of what they’re saying but not all of it.
The new iPad Pro is to business users – and make no mistake, the iPad Pro is for business users – what the iPod was to portable music players.
When the iPod was introduced in 2001 it was not the first portable music player in the market. When the iPhone came in 2007 it was not the first smartphone and the iPad wasn’t the first tablet computer.
What Apple did was reimagine what those devices could be and created entirely new user experiences around them. For example, many pundits said Apple was mad for not allowing users to manage playlists on the iPod, forcing them to use software on their computers for that task. Some, including me I have to admit, saw the iPad as a solution looking for a problem.
The challenge for the iPad Pro is that Microsoft already redefined the tablet/notebook crossover device. Although the original Surface was a flawed device, Microsoft persisted and the most recent model, the Surface Pro 3, is a computing tour de force. A good display, enough processor and storage for most users and respectable battery life have made many organisations reconsider their investment in iPads and turn towards what is arguably Redmond’s best enterprise hardware.
The iPad Pro has come at the right time for Apple. I suspect they’ve resisted releasing a larger iPad for some time. But the release of Microsoft Office for iOS, Microsoft’s greater openness and time to get the engineering right have created a perfect storm.
Who’s going to buy the new iPad Pro? That’s a good question. One of the challenges Apple has faced, and this has been discussed by Apple CEO Tim Cook in several recent earnings calls, is the longevity of the hardware. Users have been hanging on to their iPads for longer than the two or years so Apple needs a way to encourage upgrades.
I suspect corporate users and schools with an aging fleet of iPads will look at the iPad Pro. Although the Surface is arguably a valid option, the investment in apps and supporting infrastructure might tip the balance away from Redmond to Cupertino.
When I walk into an Apple Store, the notebook most people go to is the new MacBook. I’ve used one extensively since its release – it’s a great mobile computer. In fact, my daughter received one for her recent 18th birthday.
The iPad Pro adds a new input mechanism through the new Apple Pencil and has a keyboard. The US Pricing for a 128GB iPad Pro is $1079. Throw in the Apple Pencil at US$99 and the Smart Keyboard for US$169 for a total of US$1347. Add in the GST (US prices don’t include any local taxes) and that gets you to $1482. Convert to Aussie dollars and you don’t get a lot of change from $2100.
Compared to the new MacBook, the cost difference is quite small and you get access to all of the iOS apps you’re familiar with.
I suspect the iPad Pro is going to seriously cannabalise MacBook sales and will lead to the demise of the 11-ich MacBook Air.
For enterprises that have heavily invested in the Microsoft ecosystem through servers, mobile devices, Windows, specific software and education on staff, a shift to the iPad Pro is quite unlikely. Nimbler organisations such as schools and small businesses will seriously toss up between the Surface and iPad Pro.
The iPad Pro won’t be a Surface killer. With a cost that is likely to be around $600 more than the current $1400 Surface Pro 3, Apple is more likely to chop up its own market rather than anyone else’s.