IPad Pro: Specs for the enterprise and an OS for the consumer may lead to a device for nobody


With the iPad Pro – which goes on sale Wednesday – Apple takes another step to try to better capture the enterprise market. But the specs and software included on the tablet raise one question: Who exactly in the workforce is this device for?

The iPad has, of course, had success in the enterprise before this “Pro” stamped effort, as executives have always loved it for light browsing, and some companies that have employees on their feet much of the day, such as airlines and retailers, buy them in bulk for mobile computing.

But tablet sales have slowed in recent times. IDC said in July that the market is down 7 percent year-over-year, with Apple in particular down 17.9 percent worldwide. Starting with its partnership with IBM last year and including a more recent arrangement with Cisco, Apple appears to hope that a focus on the enterprise might turn around its fortunes in the tablet market.

So is this new premium model enough to reinvigorate the company’s presence in the space? For the enterprise, adopting a new device is all about the use cases, and what exactly those are gets a bit confusing with the iPad Pro, according to Rich Mendis, co-founder of app development platform AnyPresence.

For Mendis, the iPad Pro exists in a quasi-enterprise state in that its hardware, specs and price all point toward a machine that can go up against other enterprise-focused tablets, like the Surface Pro, or even some laptops. But he said Apple has hamstrung the device with its mobile operating system, iOS.

“If you look at what applications content creators actually use in the enterprise, none of those applications run on iOS. Whether you’re on the creative arts side and use things like Photoshop or Illustrator. Or, Apple’s own position is that it’s great for video editing, but the reality is professional video editors use things like Avid Media Pro or full blown Adobe Premiere.”

Mendis further said that even regular office workers who access programs like Microsoft Excel can’t use an iOS tablet to access power user features like macro functions. All those apps listed have simplified versions available for iOS, but none with their full version’s capabilities.

That relegates the iPad Pro to a content consumption device, a status it will retain unless Apple brings the fuller OSX to the device or vendors start to create special full versions of iOS apps, the latter of which is uncertain.

“If it looks like a laptop, and smells like a laptop, it is a laptop – in terms of functionality – and therefore it’s targeting serious content creators that require it to run serious apps, which it can’t,” Mendis said.

All that adds up to a confusing device for both experts and the market at large. Even Apple itself has offered mixed messages in the lead up to the device’s release about who exactly it’s targeting.

Apple CEO Tim Cook in an interview with The Telegraph said the peripherals and the digital pencil lead to use cases for creatives. Meanwhile, Eddy Cue, an Apple senior vice president, told CNN Money he thinks of the device as more for consumers of media rather than creators.

Still, one expert, FBR & Co. analyst Daniel Ives, told AppleInsider he sees an upside for the new tablet.

Apple has long relied on introducing new product models to boost revenue. Ives said that he thinks the iPad Pro will sell enough based primarily on it being the first Apple product focused on the workplace to see the iPad category jolt from 10 percent of the company’s total revenue to 15 percent.

The introduction of this new member of the iPad family will certainly attract some new business based on brand alone. For Apple, a “Pro” model aimed at the enterprise may have felt like the most natural evolution of the tablet and it may hope that design novelty – at least to its own product set – will carry the day.

After a few weeks, we’ll be able to see how and how often those pros use the iPad Pro for real work.