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Smaller iPhone SE has 'compelling' business use cases

Apple's smaller iPhone SE will have a role in the business world. Experts debate whether the 9.7-inch iPad Pro can replace a Windows PC, however.

The smaller iPhone SE could be a promising enterprise smartphone, but the 9.7-inch iPad Pro has a tougher mountain to climb.

The new iPhone SE has the same casing and 4.7-inch display as the iPhone 5s, but on the inside, it has all the higher-end specs of the iPhone 6. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro is a smaller version of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, which came out in November. Apple announced the new devices, along with iOS 9.3, at a media event this week.

"Businesses who supply iPhone 5 devices will definitely be looking at the SE," said Patrick Moorhead, president of analyst firm Moor Insights and Strategy in Austin, Texas.

Enterprise prospects for smaller iPhone

The new iPhone SE runs on Apple's powerful A9 processor, supports Touch ID and has a better display. Pricing ranges from $399 for the 16 GB model to $499 for 64 GB, and the device will be available March 31.

The capabilities packed into the smaller iPhone are impressive, said Michael Oh, CTO and founder of TSP LLC, a Boston-based Apple reseller. 

"The iPhone SE is a really compelling device," Oh said. "I didn't think it would be as full-featured in terms of having an A9 chip. For anyone with the iPhone 5c, this is a huge update for them."

The new iPhone SE takes aim at consumers who want a smaller form factor, but it will also appeal to organizations that supply smartphones to employees, Moorhead said.

Can the smaller iPad Pro replace a PC?

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro is designed to bring the same features of its larger predecessor to a smaller form factor. Like the 12.9-inch model, it runs on the A9 processor, and supports Apple's Smart Keyboard and the Apple Pencil stylus. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro starts at $599 for the 32 GB, Wi-Fi-only model and goes up to $1,029 for the 256 GB model, with Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity.

Apple said the new iPad Pro can replace a laptop, and the company intends to go after the 600 million users of Windows PCs that are at least 5 years old.

"Everything is there to replace the PC with an iPad," Oh said. "If someone is living with a 5-year-old PC, you could certainly argue that most of their stuff could be done on an iPad Pro."

The value proposition to replace a Windows XP PC with an iPad has already been there for a while, he said.

The vast majority of people who buy an iPad get it as a supplemental device.
Jack Goldprincipal and founder, J. Gold Associates

Other experts have their doubts about iPad Pros replacing PCs.

"It's not comparable," said Jack Gold, principal and founder of J. Gold Associates, an analyst firm in Northborough, Mass. "The vast majority of people who buy an iPad get it as a supplemental device and are not throwing away their PC. Are you going to do a 500-cell spreadsheet on an iPad? No."

Both Gold and Oh agreed the 9.7-inch iPad Pro will not make a sizable difference in Apple's market strategy. It simply plugs a gap in the company's product catalog to have a more affordable tablet, Oh said.

Apple's enterprise focus 

For the past two years, Apple has made a strong enterprise push. The company has made its enterprise intentions clear at several events, forging partnerships with the likes of Cisco and IBM, and showing off the enterprise-friendly features of iOS. In September, the company revealed that it has a $25 billion enterprise business.

At this week's Apple event, however, no executive even mentioned the word enterprise on stage.

"They didn't say 'enterprise,' because this wasn't for it," Gold said. "These were just incremental announcements."

Apple did not deliver a new Apple Watch or new Macs during the event, as some observers had expected.

"I really wanted to see new Macs, with [Intel] Skylake processors and graphics," Moorhead said. "I really hope these come soon."

Next Steps

Explore MDM for iPads

A look at Apple Watch in the enterprise

Apple security in the enterprise 

Dig Deeper on Apple iOS in the enterprise

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What would be the pros and cons of deploying the new iPhone SE in your company?
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Sure, all sorts of compelling technology inside that will push this phone into corporate use. Some seriously great specs. But why in the world would I want a smaller phone when it's already hard enough to read text on the too-small phone I already own? it's a choice – and who am I to argue with Apple – but not a choice I particularly like.
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