Imagine that Apple instead of Microsoft designed the Surface Pro and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect with the iPad Pro. Both tablets are about the same size and thickness and both have an optional magnetic keyboard.
Both devices have an active stylus, but Microsoft is a standard feature, while Apple’s is an option. Both are designed for work more than they are for recreation.
Of course, there are differences. For one, Apple does include more recreational options and may be designed more for creative expression, but in reality the differences are smaller than they may seem. Both, it would seem, are tablets aimed at what has been called the Ultrabook market.
For the iPad Pro, this is a very good thing. The iPad has always been a sort of stepchild for Apple. It started out life as little more than an iPod with a larger screen, but with each generational update it grew in capability and began being accepted for business use.
In the past few years, the iPad tablet reached a point at which it became good enough to run business applications effectively, leaving little reason for anyone to upgrade.
For example, if a pilot bought a third-generation iPad with a retina display for to work with flight documentation, the new iPad Air offered little extra. The charts and checklists looked the same, navigation worked the same way and performance was good enough. Likewise, if an iPad was used for developing presentations or showing real estate photos, little changed with each model update.
This meant that no matter how nice the new iPad Air 2 might be it didn’t offer enough new features or performance to convince many businesses to spend the money to upgrade. Thus, sales declined quarter over quarter. Worse, other companies, notably Microsoft, offered tablets that did more.
The iPad Pro finally gives iPad users something that’s worth the price of an upgrade. In this case, that something is a very high resolution 12.9 inch-screen. The width of the new screen happens to exactly equal the height of the screen on the iPad Air 2. That means that you could open two apps side by side on the 12.9-inch screen and they’d be the same size as a single app on the iPad Air 2.
The ability to open two apps on the same screen at the same time implies that the new iPad Pro will handle multitasking, something users have wanted for a long time. And in fact, the iPad Pro does support multitasking as Apple presenters demonstrated in the Sept. 9 briefing. Whether the multitasking is limited to two applications or whether the iPad Pro can run several apps at the same time (as the Surface Pro can) remains unclear.
But being able to open two apps and switch between them as they continue to run is far more than twice as good. Even limited multitasking is a significant productivity boost over the iPads of yore.
Apple’s iPad Pro Delivers New Features Needed to Spur Tablet Sales
The support for multitasking required a new processor, in Apple’s case the A9X chip, to be able to handle the processing requirements as well as being able to run the new high resolution screen. It also required some new engineering such as variable screen refresh rates as a way to save power by not refreshing screen images that don’t change. These enhancements, among others, give the new iPad Pro a 10-hour battery life, Apple’s presenters claimed.
The optional keyboard and stylus that Apple is offering with the iPad Pro accentuate the usefulness of this tablet for business. The new keyboard, which attaches to the long edge of the iPad using magnets to engage new power and data contacts, operates in much the same way as Microsoft’s Type Cover. It will serve as a cover and a keyboard that appears to have been intended for actual typing. The Apple Smart Keyboard also acts as a support.
Perhaps as interesting as the hardware itself was the support from Microsoft. While Office has been available for the iPad for several months, Microsoft is fully embracing the multitasking capability of the iPad Pro. This means, among other things, that you can open Word and Excel side by side to copy data between them, just as you can on (gasp) Windows.
Other software vendors, including Adobe, also demonstrated the ability to take advantage of multitasking. But Apple and Microsoft seem to have developed a close relationship. Besides inviting Microsoft executives to take part in Apple’s big presentation, Apple broke with its tradition of only allowing people to view the event video stream on Apple devices running the Safari browser by enabling the stream on Microsoft’s new Edge browser running on Windows 10.
While there are a number of other interesting features that make the iPad Pro attractive enough to spur sales, I’ll leave those to the news staff to describe. Finally, Apple has a tablet with enough new features that it gives customers a reason to buy to buy the iPad Pro.
Of course, Apple also announced other products including some updates to the Apple Watch and Apple TV, but the updates to the iPhone are more significant to most people. The new iPhone 6S and 6S Plus are improvements on the devices they replace.
Those improvements include a faster processor, some new camera features, and something Apple calls 3D Touch, which means that the phone is sensitive to both touch as well as how hard and how long you touch the screen.
I’ll look at the new iPhone in greater detail in a couple of weeks when I can get my hands on one. For many people, it may be worth the upgrade cost, but there’s no question that the iPad Pro is good for more than just for the sake of upgrading to the latest model. It can bring in a whole new round of buyers.