Is there an iPad Pro in Apple's future?

Forrester predicts that 200 million workers will be lining up for a Windows tablet. Apple may want to take a bite out of that market with an iPad "Pro".

Apple's iPad tablet and Microsoft's Surface Pro laptop/tablet compete for attention.
(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

Microsoft's Surface Pro is apparently just what businesses want in what was formerly known as the desktop computer. If that's the case, Apple's brain trust may want to revisit the space where the Mac and the iPad intersect.

According to Forrester Research's annual survey of nearly 10,000 people around the world who use a computer to do their jobs an hour or more a day, 32 per cent said they would prefer Windows over Apple or Android for their next work tablet. Currently, about 2 per cent are using a Windows tablet for their work.

(Credit: Forrester Research/ZDNet)

Forrester predicts that Apple will continue to be a smartphone maker of choice for business users, but the research company predicts that 200 million workers will be lining up for a Windows tablet, such as the Surface Pro. It could be that those business users just want their Microsoft Office and other Windows features on a tablet. Still, 26 per cent of those surveyed preferred an iPad, compared the 32 per cent who wanted a Windows tablet.

Despite what Forrester says, Apple portrays the iPad as taking the enterprise by storm.

"With more than 120 million iPads sold, it's clear that customers around the world love their iPads, and every day they are finding more great reasons to work, learn and play on their iPads rather than their old PCs," Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, said in a press release introducing the new 128GB iPad. "With twice the storage capacity and an unparalleled selection of over 300,000 native iPad apps, enterprises, educators and artists have even more reasons to use iPad for all their business and personal needs."

Mac laptops are 80 per cent of all Mac sales, but the iPad is by far the leader of the pack.
(Credit: Dan Frommer)

Schiller added that "virtually all of the Fortune 500 and over 85 per cent of the Global 500 [are] currently deploying or testing iPad" for applications such as film editing, music composition, training videos, architectural projects and medical diagnostics.

iPad apps are generally single purpose. For example, professional sports teams are buying iPads to run apps, such as GamePlan, that replace paper playbooks, game film, schedules and guidelines for players and coaches.

The reality is that people like the iPad, or just tablets in general, and that's helping to fuel a post-PC wave that is eclipsing sales of PCs. "Post-PC", as Steve Jobs put it, means devices that are easier to use and more intuitive than a PC. But the new 128GB, US$799 Wi-Fi-only iPad in its post-PCness doesn't satisfy users who want multitasking, multiuser access and other "PC" features.

It's the difference between what you can do with Mac OS and Apple's mobile iOS. Some users will want the best of both, and that is what Microsoft is attempting to do with Windows 8 and the hybrid Surface Pro.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has described the Surface as a "fairly compromised, confusing product", and compared it to designing a car that flies and floats. "I don't think it would do all of those things very well," he said.

The US$999, battery-life deprived Surface PC-laptop-tablet might be off to a slow start, but as ZDNet's Ed Bott wrote in his evaluation of the machine, "this is a great product for anyone who's already committed to a Microsoft-centric work environment. It isn't likely to inspire many iPad owners to switch, unless those Apple tablets are in the hands of someone who has been eagerly awaiting an excuse to execute the iTunes ecosystem."

Jean Louis Gassée, a former Apple executive, founder of Be Inc and venture capitalist, summed up Apple's "pro" problem in his attempt to use an iPad to write his recent Monday Note column:

Once I start writing, I want to look through the research material I've compiled. On a Mac, I simply open an Evernote window, side by side with my Pages document: select, drag, drop. I take some partial screenshots, annotate graphs (such as the iPad Pro prices above), convert images to the .png format used to put the Monday Note on the web... On the iPad, these tasks are complicated and cumbersome.

For starters — and to belabor the obvious — I can't open multiple windows. iOS uses the "one thing at a time" model. I can't select/drag/drop, I have to switch from Pages to Evernote or Safari, select and copy a quote and then switch back to the document and paste... Adding a hyperlink is even more tortuous and, at times, confusing...and things get worse for graphics.

Gassée speculated Apple might want to expand the iPad into "authentically Pro territory". He concluded, "The more complex the task, the more our beloved 30-year-old personal computer is up to it. But there is now room above the enforced simplicity that made the iPad's success for UI changes allowing a modicum of real-world 'pro' workflow on iPads."

If the Surface Pro becomes more successful as it evolves, Cook and design chief Jony Ive will have to think about designing a no-compromise iPad that can fly and float, or fly and drive, and do both very well.

The Transition by Terrafugia: land at the airport, fold your wings up and drive home.
(Credit: Terrafugia)


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trebor83 posted a comment   

The main problem Microsoft has with the Surface Pro, and with Windows 8 and what the OEMs are doing with regards to new device concepts, is that they're at least one hardware generation away from actually being able to do it properly. By that I don't mean 'they are ahead of their times' but that they got over ambitious.

Current Core i processors are still too hot and too power hungry to really work efficiently in a tablet device and Atoms lack both the processing power to be much more then a single function word processor or web browser or the graphics power to do much of anything at a modern standard, as demonstrated by all these devices coming with 1366x768 displays. Not to mention the costs of high capacity SSDs and high quality touch displays limiting what is possible without pushing prices well beyond what people are prepared to pay. No matter how much more functional they may be people aren't going to pay 2/3 times the price of an Android tablet for a significantly thicker, heavier tablet with less then half the battery life and less storage.

They have to hope that they can make enough of an impact and gain enough mind share, that isn't to do with the negatives of the current products, to remain competitive when Haswell and whatever the new Atom chips wind up being called (are they Silvermont, Valley View, Baytrail? Who knows?) arrive to make them a more compelling option. Intel's 'North Cape' Haswell reference device, that they were showing off at CES this year looks to have promise (13 inch detachable screen, 10mm thick, though I think it was still actively cool) but how it will actually perform in key areas like battery life are still unclear and come the second half of the year we may still find ourselves saying "the next generation of chips will make all the difference". If we do though it is likely to be too late and the perception of Windows tablets not being up to the task is likely to be well entrenched and all the best cross platform integration in the world won't save Microsoft.


CSerruto posted a comment   

I have a Surface, and in fact am typing with it right now. It's a great device and does do both things well. Pretty much everyone I know who owns the iPad or doesn't, believes the Surface is better. I am using it in a school environment, where it simply shines. Even someone who believes the Apple ecosystem thought the Surface was a good idea and really useful.

Users who want a Windows tablet will know what it can do, generally because they are not simply following a pack, hence, they will most likely not be surprised when they get it.


RichardW3 posted a comment   

Users who want a Windows tablet as their next tablet may feel differently once they actually get one.

Reports I am hearing about the Surface are somewhat less positive about it than I would have expected.

Although yes for some who have been in Windows world for years and are conditioned to it they will only feel they are in the real world when the world they have been told is the real world is there. Years of conditioning to a cult has that effect. (yes - 'sheeple' believe MS is what you must use because everyone else does, this is an accurate sheep analogy)

Some may just wish for the past and when faced with it may realise their nostalgia was misplaced. This is of course human nature no matter what the circumstance (so don't bother with silly rebuttals about it being untrue)

And of course a small number will be better off with Windows due to a particular application or feature.

Some users assume a windows tablet must be better due to the perception of limtiation, if they get a Surface RT they may find themselves somewhat suprised.

Meanwhile iOS is a developing platform and gaps in function get filled by apps being developed. The world moves on. So the numbers will shift - people will change their minds (in either direction).


Restricted_access posted a reply   

"Reports I am hearing about the Surface are somewhat less positive about it than I would have expected."

I read many tech magazines, every day, and I've not yet read any truly positive reports from authors who bought Surface devices. Even Mary Jo Foley, who is very pro-MS, but also very fair, has been rather restrained in her comments about her experiences with Surface. Reports are that Surface RT total less than 900.000 and possibly as low as 750,000 for the first quarter. Those are truly awful results for a device that was so incredibly hyped.

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