Apple is gunning for the business market. If the deals with IBM and Cisco didn’t make it plain, the unveiling of the iPad Pro is a clear statement that Apple wants the corporate world to see its products as full business devices.
With a 12.9in 5K screen, touch-sensitive controls, 10-hour battery life and the multi-tasking features in iOS 9 there is plenty to recommend the iPad Pro to professionals. Even the name is a nod to the world of work.
CCS Insight analyst Geoff Blaber suggested that the iPad Pro is likely to have the desired impact and appeal to business buyers.
“The iPad Pro should invigorate the iPad line and provide a clear option for enterprises when coupled with keyboard accessories and a growing focus on enterprise apps,” he said.
“The combination of enterprise partnerships and creative apps plus new accessories will extend the opportunity for Apple in business."
Apple didn’t overtly pitch the device as a business machine during the presentation - it probably wouldn’t fit its brand to talk about spreadsheets and pie charts - so the firm got Microsoft and Adobe to do the job instead.
Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president for Microsoft's Office division, took to the stage to demonstrate tools such as Word and PowerPoint on the iPad Pro at Apple's event, showing how far Microsoft has fallen in the mobile world.
Of course, it won’t hurt Microsoft if the iPad Pro does become a success in business and helps shift a few more Office 365 subscriptions.
But the bad news for Microsoft is that the iPad Pro is a major threat to its Surface devices, especially as it comes with keyboard and stylus accessories, an area where iPads have previously fallen flat as productivity tools.
The Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil are perhaps the most important work-oriented aspects of the iPad Pro, as they allow professionals to use the device as well as, or instead of, a laptop or desktop machine.
"Apple's iPad Pro presents an alternative vision of a tablet or portable PC. The incredible MultiTouch, 5K display, dynamically reconfiguring stereo speakers, and sensitive Apple Pencil set a new bar for a creative, high-end personal device, and will blur the line between tablet and laptop," said Forrester analyst Frank Gillett.
“And it joins the Microsoft Surface Pro as an alternative vision of a personal portable computing device for creatives and professionals."
However, Gillett noted that a price tag of over $1,000 when combining the bottom of the range iPad Pro ($799), Smart Keyboard ($169) and Pencil ($99) will mean that mid-range Windows devices are not threatened by the iPad Pro.
The other silver lining for Microsoft is that Apple’s entry into the tablet/laptop ‘convertible’ market is likely to kick-start a period of growth for larger devices in the businesses environment.
Strategy Analytics predicted recently that 19.3 million tablets with screen sizes of 11in or larger will ship by 2019, double the figure in 2015 and helping to claim a seven percent share of the market.
Eric Smith, tablet and touchscreen strategies senior analyst at Strategy Analytics, explained that this growth will come mostly from business environments and will see devices like the Surface Pro benefit as much as the iPad Pro.
"The ultra-portability and versatility of 2-in-1 tablets and premium slates like Surface Pro 3 and iPad Pro will enable the tablet to increasingly serve new market segments, such as field work, healthcare, retail point of sale, education and even desk work,” he said.
The iPad Pro launches in November. UK prices have yet to be confirmed, although they could well end up matching the US prices.
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