I’m really excited about Apple’s iPad Pro announcement last week. This is great for the industry on so many levels. The PC and tablet market have both had negative growth for the last 6+ quarters. The only segment that has had any real growth has been the hybrid market. Specifically devices like the Microsoft Surface which has seen immense growth over the last four quarters.
You can check out the iPad Pro’s specs over at CNET.
Is the iPad Pro an Indictment of Previous iPads?
Is the iPad Pro an indictment of the non-pro versions of the iPad. In some ways it is. While there’s no denying that the iPad created interest in the tablet format in a near perfect storm of consumerization of IT coinciding with Apple’s status as cultural icon with Steve Jobs as the anointed arbiter of geek cool. The iPad essentially rebooted a form factor that had failed to catch the attention of the market. So how is the iPad Pro an indictment of such a successful device? Apple has traditionally had very few options in their lineup. Sure there were, models with more or less storage and with or without LTE but for the most part the use cases were predetermined and narrow. This standardization of the platform created a walled garden that for all of its rigidity permitted Apple to minimize variables in testing and maximize the user experience within the walled garden. Choice was limited, but, for the supported use cases “it just works”. The keyboard and the pencil are a big change to the intended use cases. Apple, a company that has previously has mocked systems with keyboards and pen/stylus devices, finally acknowledges that for some scenarios, different forms of UI can greatly enhance productivity. There is no arguing that it is much easier to create documents with a keyboard and sketches or handwritten notes with some form or precision stylus. While not necessarily for everyone this is definitely something that content creators will find attractive.
Is the iPad Pro and endorsement of the Surface?
Is this an endorsement of the Surface Pro? I think it justification and an acknowledgement of the Surface Pro use cases. It definitely is a nod to some things that Microsoft has done well with the Surface line but it is still an Apple product with impeccable industrial design winning out over performance. This device will definitely attract some customers that were considering a Surface or similar Windows tablet but at the same time it is an evolution of the iOS platform into another market segment. IOS has grown from a point solution for a music player into a mobile phone OS and a tablet OS. Its legacy is a small form factor, battery powered device on an efficient but low powered processor scaling up to new form factors and use cases. It is noteworthy that Apple still produces OS X for serious content creators like film makers, musicians, artists and writers. Of interest was that Microsoft was on stage at the iPad Pro launch announcing the latest version of Office for IOS and that Apple acknowledged Microsoft’s leadership in productivity tools.
The Surface has the opposite legacy. It is the result of ever increasing downscaling of the hardware required to run and OS that has a real-time multi-tasking server operating system (Windows NT) as its heritage.
The Surface is a great fit for somebody that needs a laptop but wants a tablet while the iPad Pro will be appealing to those who needs a tablet but want a laptop (some of the time). I hope somebody quotes me on that J
Competition has been present in the consumer portion of the market for the last decade where we have seen huge momentum swings (consider the relative market share changes of BlackBerry, iOS and Android over the last decade) and has created some great innovation. However, the consumer market has never been about productivity. It has been focused on lifestyle and fun with a little productivity thrown in to help justify the price tag. In the enterprise and professional side of the market while there are multiple vendors, their offerings have typically been commoditized with little differentiation except at the fringes. For the most part Lenovo, HP, Dell, and Acer all sell products in the most popular configurations and form factors – The very part of the market that has stagnated.
I’m looking forward to what this new era of productivity that this type of competition and innovation in hybrid devices will bring. I expect some tie ve3ry soon we won’t even refer to them as hybrid devices but will call out non-hybrid devices in the same way we now call “non-smart” phones “feature phones”. Choice is a good thing and can only strengthen a market that has become stagnant and complacent.