Thinking About the iPad Pro

Posted on November 10, 2015 by Paul Thurrott in iOS, Microsoft Surface with 0

Thinking About the iPad Pro

While the iPad Pro was in many ways inevitable, it also points to a crisis of original thought at Apple, which has been coasting on the iPhone’s coattails for perhaps too long. At Apple, the solution to every problem is another iPhone. And the iPad Pro, like the new Apple TV and the Apple Watch, is really just another attempt to duplicate that singular success in other markets.

This, I will remind you, was Microsoft’s failed strategy as well: With the success of Windows, Microsoft simply tried to duplicate that product’s success—in which it created the software and others sold the hardware—in numerous other markets. It didn’t work, and today Microsoft has started copying Apple by trying to do both software and hardware too.

I wrote about Apple’s non-existent justification for building iPad Pro previously in Apple’s iPad Pro Takes on Surface, where I pointed out that Apple was simply copying Surface, and implicitly admitting that, hey, it looks like Microsoft really was onto a good idea there.

But there’s a much better condemnation of iPad Pro available from Computerworld’s Richi Jennings, who does no less than provide multiple examples of Apple’s top executives, Tim Cook and Eddie Cue, completely refuting each others’ rationales for the product. Tim Cook says it’s for creatives, and that no one needs a laptop anymore. Cue, meanwhile, says it’s for those who “consume” more than they “create.”

Oh brother.

Apple’s inability to market a product for which there is no clear purpose sounds familiar, The Verge’s Tom Warren notes in Apple has learned nothing from Microsoft’s Surface.

“It’s easy to see that Apple has learned nothing from Microsoft’s Surface work. The original Surface RT shipped with just one angle for its kickstand and it was awkward to use as a laptop replacement on your lap,” Mr. Warren writes. “Apple’s iPad Pro can only be used at one angle with the keyboard, and there’s no place to store the stylus when you’re not using it.”

To be fair to Apple, they are getting one thing right: As strong as the Mac market is, it’s just a tiny fraction of the market for iOS devices, and in the sense that when you’re a hammer, everything problem looks like a nail, it’s pretty obvious that Apple should improve iOS for 2-in-1s and not the Mac. And the iPad Pro won’t suffer from Surface RT’s biggest problem, a lack of apps. Again, making a big iPhone does sort of make sense.

If, that is, you’re a slow-moving, conservative, and risk-averse company. Which of course Apple has become. Everyone is quick to harp on how Microsoft would become the next IBM. But no one seems to have noticed that, in turn, Apple has become the next Microsoft.

In the good old days of a four-product grid and simplification, Steve Jobs would never have allowed the iPad Pro to get past the casual conversation stage. These days, Apple can’t stop mimicking its one hugely successful product, the iPhone, and trying to step the quarter by quarter sales shortfall that the iPad has been experiencing for almost two straight years now. And who knows? Maybe the iPad Pro will reverse this trend. For one quarter. But like the Apple Watch and Apple TV, and the original iPad itself, the iPad Pro isn’t the next big thing. It’s not the future. It’s just more of the same.

Apple is hugely successful, just as Microsoft was when it was trying to duplicate its Windows strategy everywhere. It’s customers are ever-willing to open their pocketbooks no matter what Apple releases. And Apple will get past this pointless release, improve iPad Pro over time, and perhaps get to a point where it’s powerful enough to actually work as a … whatever it is they want it to be.

Today, it’s not clear what the point of iPad Pro is. Heck, even Apple can’t tell us.


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