Apple’s recent unveiling of its long-rumored iPad Pro has been met with thunderous applause from most fans and critics alike. Finally, Apple has embraced the two-in-one mentality that Microsoft (and countless others) have banked on for a few years now! The iPad Pro is promised to be everything we love about iPad—just more.
Okay, I’ll stop.
But while the Surface works for Microsoft, it’s not clear to me that the iPad Pro will work in the same way for Apple. In fact, this particular bow to the whims of the consumer, something that, for better or worse, Steve Jobs’s Apple long fought against in the early days and again in the early 2000s, may actually be a poor decision. Simply put, Apple has an iPad Pro problem.
Microsoft’s Surface success
While I’m not a huge fan of Microsoft’s Surface tablet—er—laptop—er—two-in-one device, I can certainly appreciate that, for some people, having a laptop that can also double as a tablet-like device has quite the appeal. It’s just one device, but it’s capable of performing moderately well in a few different situations.
As a software manufacturer for an absolutely mind boggling amount of hardware companies, Microsoft’s entrance into the two-in-one field is understandable, even if it wasn’t necessarily predictable. With a single swing, Microsoft created a piece of hardware that could basically function as a personal computer as well as a tablet, all running the same operating system.
Though it took some time to work the bugs out, generally, Microsoft’s approach to personal computers and tablets works. But it was their first time. Microsoft was just getting into the hardware game, crafting a consumer product that would run its software. This was new. This was innovative. At least it felt like it at the time. And now, several generations into the Surface line, Microsoft has made a product that people want, a product that makes sense in their lives, and it makes sense for Microsoft, a company that has been licensing its product out to, arguably, lesser hardware companies for years; finally, Windows could run on a piece of hardware that was specifically designed for it.
It’s admirable that Apple wanted to create such a device for its enormous iDevice consumer base, but Apple’s move doesn’t make as much sense as Microsoft’s. For Microsoft, the Surface hybrid device is a step in a new direction; for Apple, the iPad Pro hybrid device is little more than a lateral movement.
The iPad Pro isn’t the Surface. It’s not a first-generation device; in fact, this product has been around for more than five years—that’s basically a decade, if not more, in the tech world. Despite being a later generation iPad, in terms of form and function, the iPad Pro actually takes more cues from the Surface than the previous iPads. This is a basic imitation.
You could (successfully) argue that the iPod, iPhone and iPad were all imitations of other products; they were the culmination of years of watching other companies fail as well as Apple’s own research and development. But the iPad Pro is different. If Apple’s other products were better iterations of existing products, the iPad Pro is just a shallow imitation of the Surface. The iPad Pro is more like the products that other companies designed after the iPod, iPhone and iPad than the iPod, iPhone and iPad themselves.
That isn’t to say that Apple was better with Jobs as CEO—it was just different. It’s too easy to blame Apple’s recent decisions on Jobs’s death, but it’s hard to imagine the iPad Pro being produced with Jobs in charge.
Some people probably decided to pick up an iPad or iPad Mini in the place of a MacBook, but the numbers are pretty low. Most people who have tried to use the iPad in the place of a MacBook have been sorely disappointed in the iPad’s productivity, but the iPad Pro is supposed to change all of that. Surely, some people will opt for the iPad Pro, perhaps because of the form factor, but it doesn’t make sense for most people.
If you consider the price of the iPad Pro, a minimum of $799 for the 32GB model and as much as $1,079 for the 128GB LTE model, coupled with the Smart Keyboard, $169, and the Apple Pencil ($99), you’re quickly looking at pretty hefty price tag. Opting for the cheapest model (with the extra accessories), you’re still walking out the Apple Store with $1,000 poorer than you were when you walked in. To put that into perspective, you can purchase a 13” MacBook Air starting at $999.
With that small of a price difference, how many people are going to take a chance and choose the iPad Pro instead of going with the tried-and-true laptop form function of the MacBook Air?
Ultimately, the iPad Pro is just an uncharacteristic product for Apple. While it may be extremely successful (and almost surely more useful than Microsoft’s Surface), it doesn’t seem to fit into Apple’s product lineup. For Microsoft, the Surface is its personal computing hardware, but for Apple, the iPad Pro sits uncomfortably between the fully functional MacBook line and the iPad.
What do you think about the iPad Pro? Will you be buying one when it becomes available?
You might also like:
No iPad Air? Why We Should Rethink Apple’s Refresh Cycle