Apple introduced plenty of new hardware at the Worldwide Developers Conference including long-awaited iPad Pro tablets and a Xeon-powered iMac Pro.
Apple CEO Tim Cook delivered the long awaited announcement of a new iPad Pro tablet at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference on June 5 in San Jose.
Apple also announced new Macintosh computers, new versions of MacOS, watchOS and tvOS, along with providing a preview of an intelligent speaker that will show up in December.
The new iMac Pro is a Xeon-powered workstation class computer that’s designed to compete with workstations currently available from HP and Dell. The new iMac will be available at the end of the year and can be configured with up to CPU 18 cores and Graphical Processing Units with performance of up to 22 Teraflops. It will have a 27-inch 5K display.
The new iPads are available for order immediately, and will be delivered starting in the week of June 12. The new 10.5-inch iPad Pro has the same size chassis as the 9.7-inch iPad Pro it replaces, but with a more powerful A10X Fusion processor. However, Apple was able to achieve a 20 percent increase in the usable screen area by shrinking the borders and bezels, allowing the larger screen size in the existing form factor.
The upgraded 12.9-inch iPad Pro includes the same A10X Fusion processor, while the form factor remains the same as its predecessor. Both versions of the iPad Pro have improved screens that allow the use of a wider color range. The Apple also said the new iPads will have an anti-reflective coating, which if effective, this would be a welcome improvement.
Both allow screen refresh rates of up to 120 Hz, but the speed can be dynamically varied depending on what the iPad is doing. For example the high refresh rate works well with using the new iPads for handwriting using the Apple Pencil, while slower rates save power while doing relatively static tasks such as reading ebooks.
While the new iPad Pro models are shipping in June, the new version of iOS will have a significant impact on how they’re used in a business setting. However, Apple won’t release iOS 11 until this fall, so users with the new devices will see only a portion of their new capabilities at first.
Apple is building a number of iPad-only features into iOS 11 that will enhance the new tablets’ capabilities. In addition, iOS 11 will allow the new iPads to compete more effectively with Microsoft’s Surface hybrid notebook-tablet models which are finding favor with business buyers.
The new capabilities include multitasking in which apps keep running in the background even when the user isn’t working on it. Microsoft has been able to do with its tablets since the beginning.
Other features that Apple has learned from Microsoft include the Files app that works a lot like Windows Explorer, including the ability to include third-party cloud storage.
Apple has also included a multi-touch drag and drop feature with iOS 11 that’s similar to the same capability in Windows 10. There is also deep integration with Apple Pencil that’s similar to the drawing features available on the Microsoft Surface models with the Surface Pen.
Of course the iPad Pro isn’t the same device as the Surface Pro, and each has its strengths. But with the speed of innovation in the mobile device market, this is an area where Apple is playing catch-up.
But at least Apple and the iPad have caught up. The new 10.5-inch iPad Pro presents a thoroughly modern face to the world by not wasting space on wide borders and by promising performance that’s up to current standards.
In some cases, Apple will break new ground with iOS 11, such as with its ability to accept hand-written entries in iOS 11 and then to make them searchable.
In fact, the ability to use what Apple calls Instant Markup is a feature that will continue to make the iPad Pro useful in a business setting. The ability to add notes or editorial corrections to virtually any existing document and have that material stay with the document as it’s transferred between users will greatly ease workflow.
Other features coming for the iPad in iOS 11 will also enhance its usefulness in the work place. For example, there’s a document scanner that works with the new camera on the iPad Pro line. The scanner is able take a document that was shot at an angle and return it to a rectangular shape and then use the scanned image to incorporate the document’s contents into new or revised documents.
Part of the reason this can work as well as it does is because the new iPad Pro devices use the same front and rear camera as the iPhone 7 with a 7-megapixel camera on the front and a 12-megapixel on the back. The rear camera can shoot 4K video, and the front camera can shoot HD video for FaceTime and other video conferencing apps.
With all of the changes, Apple has developed a tablet that’s competitive with its primary market rival. But what Apple needs to do is pick up the pace of development so that the company can take the initiative back from Microsoft.
This is one situation in which being as good as the competition isn’t good enough. To stay competitive, Apple needs to be better than the competition in all important aspects.