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Thoughts on the iPad Pro
Friday, 2015 September 18 - 3:27 pm
So, one of my predictions about the Apple Event last week was way off. Apple did indeed announce a bigger, heavier 13" iPad Pro, complete with an optional keyboard and an optional fancy stylus (the Apple Pencil). There are multiple reasons why Apple may have come out with this device.

The iPad Pro weighs about as much as the first generation iPad. That's quite an accomplishment given the larger screen size, but I can tell you from using the original iPad that it's not comfortable for long-term handheld use. So for most people's common use cases (reading stuff on the couch or in bed), this is not the device for them.

It seems fairly clear to me that this is a niche device, a flagship model that makes the other models seem reasonably affordable in comparison. There's a fairly well-known principle in marketing that consumers tend to buy the second-best item in a product lineup, perceiving that item to have the best value. So my guess is, that's part of Apple's thinking. Apple certainly wouldn't want to cede the high end of the market to another vendor; if anything, Apple's inclination is to focus more effort on high-end products.

The addition of an optional keyboard seems to be a sign that this is targeted as a laptop replacement, probably for enterprise users. I don't think that hybrid laptop/tablet products are going to be successful in the long run, but I can see how Apple might think they don't want to let Microsoft define the category. If anything, I think this is an effort to wean business users away from laptops.

The Apple Pencil has garnered a lot of attention, largely because Steve Jobs famously said of other vendors, "if you see a stylus, they blew it". But this is clearly just not another stylus. It's an optional accessory and it's not needed for most interactions with the iPad Pro. Where it is useful is in drawing and image manipulation applications. That says to me that the iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil is designed to target graphics professionals in particular, to replace their clunky old Wacom tablets. From what I've seen of the Apple Pencil, with its pressure- and angle-sensitive response, this will be a big winner. I don't think there's any graphics workflow that will come close to directly drawing on the screen with a precision instrument.

The suggestion that the iPad Pro is simply derivative of the Microsoft Surface Pro is simply wrong. There's no attempt here to turn the iPad into a desktop OS. What Apple has done is taken two specific use cases (typing and drawing) and made tablet-friendly tools to accomplish them. By contrast, Microsoft is trying to get you to keep using desktop idioms, but with a touch screen interface grafted onto them.

I'm still not a buyer for this device, but then again, I still have a laptop (and a desktop) and I'm not a graphics pro. The media will be tempted to characterize the iPad Pro as a flop if it doesn't turn out to be a widespread success in sales. I think that's wrong too. The iPad Pro is a "defending the turf" product, not an attempt to grow the market, and if it succeeds in blunting any headway that might have been made by Surface tablets and Chromebooks, then it should probably be considered a success.
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Posted by Ken in: techwatch


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