Apple doesn’t like Microsoft and its allies eating into the tablet market it popularized. But now the consumer tablet market has been saturated by cheaper Android tabs and many iPad owners are holding onto their tablets for as long as possible putting Apple’s iPad sales in trouble. The tablets selling today are the Windows-based Surface and its clones which are far more useful to business users than Apple’s iPad. Apple now wants to take a bite into the enterprise by promoting iPad versions for business users. First with the 12.9-inch iPad Pro just last November and now with a more portable 9.7-inch model. Will it succeed with the 9.7-inch model or is it merely a corrective action to the less than stellar acceptance for the 12.9-inch model?
When Apple introduced the 9.7-inch iPad Pro model, the company made clear that it’s targeting the Windows tablet market share apart from its own fan base.
“…There’s a second group of people that we’d love to reach with this iPad Pro: Windows users… You may not know this, but the majority of people who come to an iPad Pro are coming from a Windows PC… Windows PCs were originally conceived of before there was an Internet, before there was social media before there was app stores, and this is an amazing statistic: There are over 600 million PCs in use today that are over five years old. This is really sad. It really is. These people could really benefit from an iPad Pro… When they see the features and performance and capabilities of a product like the iPad Pro, designed for the modern digital lifestyle, many of them will find it is the ultimate PC replacement.”
— Phil Schiller, Senior Worldwide VP of Marketing, Apple
So what makes the 9.7-inch iPad Pro an ideal PC replacement? How different is it from the iPad Air 2?
- First, the iPad Pro has a better A9X processor than the IPad Air 2 which houses an older A8X.
- More RAM at 4GB against the iPad Air’s 2GB.
- Better rear camera at 12MP against the 12.9 inch iPad Pro and the iPad Air’s 8MP plus a 5MP Facetime HD Camera
- Better sound with four-speaker audio.
- Live Photos, retina flash, true-tone flash
- Higher brightness, lower reflectivity, adaptive true-tone and wide-color retina display
- Productivity-wise, the iPad Pro also has pressure sensitivity for Pencil support and a Smart Connector for use with a Smart Keyboard.
But apart from these improvements, they can both run Microsoft’s MS Office and other iPad productivity software. Any resourceful user can use both iPads for documents, spreadsheets and email by using supported Bluetooth keyboards or keyboard cases. The Pencil support is what differentiates the iPad Pro from the iPad Air aside from iterative improvements.
Paul Schiller continues to discuss the advantages the iPad Pro has over Surface and Surface-like tablets. It’s clear that the iPad Pro was made to compete with Windows-based tablets and to take back its market share.
“Best of all they can get a hold of all those incredible apps in the app store, and there are over one million designed for iPad, and they work beautifully on iPad Pro.”
Meaning that Apple is still capitalizing on Microsoft’s weak Windows Store. Microsoft and third-party vendors seem to be giving Apple continued advantage with regards to tablet-based apps. Apple CEO Tim Cook punctuates Mr. Schiller’s arguments with a definitive statement.
“This is the best upgrade ever for an iPad owner, and the ultimate PC replacement for all of those old PCs in the world,”
— Tim Cook
However, the iPad Pro continues to suffer from several limitations such as its inflexible storage scheme, which is the lack of SD Card support. Sure, getting a pricey 128GB version solves that but users can’t exactly plug in any USB drives from offices and situations that depend on sneakernets nor do they have the extra dough for a few extra gigabytes. IT departments will have to pay a premium should they decide to provide employees with iPad Pros instead of laptops. With regards to files, iOS still lacks a proper file system and is still dependent on other computers for proper file management. Organizing related photos, documents and other files in one folder remains a difficult task.
The Smart Keyboard lacks a touchpad which is logical as users can always navigate via touchscreen. That’s okay, but the problem with that is that a lot of people have ham hands. Navigating spreadsheets and even resizing cells could prove to be difficult without a mouse. Even many Surface or hybrid users keep their hands away from the touch screen and rely on the touchpad.
After Apple’s press event, Microsoft fired back at Apple through Twitter with a graphic checking features that compares the Surface with Apple’s latest tablet.
- The Surface Pro has a larger screen at 12.3 inches slightly smaller than the older iPad Pro but more along the lines of most laptops.
- The Surface Pro also uses a stylus. Unlike the iPad Pro, the Surface Pro comes with the pressure-sensitive Surface Pen. But both tablets sell their keyboards separately.
- The Surface Pro can run full desktop software which also complements the weak app store.
The third item is the clincher for enterprise use. Most enterprises use desktop software which is either out-of-the-box or developed in-house. Surface devices can also make use of older and established software like Quickbooks, Photoshop and others that have not yet shifted to the cloud. They can also connect to most office printers wirelessly or directly to USB.
We’re not saying that iPads are not entirely fit for the enterprise. They’re now more capable in creating documents and content than they were before. Savvy users will be able to make the most of it but not everybody. But unless most enterprises start to rely mostly on the cloud like iPads do, Apple may just have to wait a bit longer and compromise on improvements such as a couple USB type C ports to at least attach a mouse and portable drive or better yet create an OS/X version for easier file management. Tim Cook is correct in saying that iPads are good PC replacements. They have largely made consumer’s lives easier by not necessarily having a PC at home to connect to the internet and interact socially, do email and play games. But for businesses, iPads are more of a PC complement rather than a replacement.