Why the iPad Pro release won't cripple the Mac-PC market

The iPad Pro is now available and it makes a good supplement to Macs and PCs, but industry watchers have reason to doubt Tim Cook's prediction that it will replace them both.

The enterprise has its eyes on the iPad Pro release, but industry experts disagree with Apple CEO Tim Cook that the new big-screen device will replace Macs and PCs, noting that the business apps don't stack up.

The new iPad Pro -- featuring a larger 12.9-inch screen, a new Apple Pencil stylus and a detachable Smart Keyboard -- has Cook envisioning a world where users will replace their MacBook and Windows PCs with the new iPad Pro, asserting in one published report there is no longer a use case for either.

The iPad Pro is intended to replace PCs and laptops, and many people who use Apple's latest device will decide they no longer need to use anything else other than their phones, he said.

The same way bigger screen phones have cut into the need for smaller screen tablets, such as the iPad Mini, the iPad Pro will have a similar effect, he said.

But industry experts don't expect the iPad Pro to replace Macs and PCs, despite the bigger screen and keyboard.

"For iPad Pro to accelerate the demise of the PC, you have to really change the landscape and give people a reason to say, 'I'm willing to give up my PC for the $1,000 iPad Pro,'" said Michael Oh, CTO and founder of TSP LLC, a Boston-based Apple reseller. "I don't see it being that compelling at this point."

The iPad Pro's starting price is $799, but that does not include the $169 Smart Keyboard or the $99 Apple Pencil.

What the iPad Pro release is missing is exclusive enterprise-grade apps on the device from a big professional software maker such as Adobe, for example, Oh said, and popular, high-end software platforms that are exclusive to the iPad Pro, or take advantage of the device's capabilities, would go a long way in winning over professionals.

Apple does have its partnership with IBM, where the company is building iOS apps. However, IBM has yet to release apps that take advantage of the iPad Pro's capabilities as the most recent batch came out in March.

"Pro at the end of its name only holds true if you have the right apps on it," he said. "It's hard to see the apps out there now and think they get that much better with the glorified stylus and more screen space … the only way the reality Tim Cook is talking about comes about is if the apps come to fruition."

As the groundbreaking business app that leverages the iPad Pro's capabilities and can draw in more business users is not yet there, it needs to show up in the next few months, Oh said, otherwise, "it will be a slow seller."

The iPad Pro's retina display has the highest resolution of any iPad and it packs more battery life into wider case. The device is also more powerful with Apple's A9X processor and iOS 9, and was designed for the iPad Pro, taking advantage of its big display with its updated multitasking feature. This allows users to split the screen and use multiple applications at once, including third-party apps -- such as the iOS 9 version of Microsoft Office.

"You never know how the ecosystem will innovate with a larger display and more room," said Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst of Moor Insights and Strategy, a tech analysis firm based in Austin, Texas. "[Cook] is banking on apps coming out that you never anticipated that end up being a big win. He's seen this happen before with the iPhone and iPad."

It was a surprise to hear Cook say the iPad Pro will replace PCs and Macs, because that should not be what Apple is trying to do, Moorhead said. Apple has really created a new segment in the hardware offering.

Despite the PC sales decline in recent years, Apple has actually done fairly well compared to other big name PC vendors.

During its earnings call in late October, Apple reported it sold more than 5.7 million iMacs and MacBooks in the September quarter of this year, up 3% from the year-ago quarter. This growth occurred in a PC market that shrank by 11% overall in the quarter, according to research firm IDC, based in Framingham, Mass.

"Strategically, it is a lot more advantageous to go after the combined PC and Mac market than anything else," Moorhead said.

Cook's outlook on iPads replacing PCs isn't exactly a new idea, as his predecessor, the late Steve Jobs, expressed the same notion in 2010 when he said PCs will be like trucks, and that some people still drive one, but most people drive cars.

"It's a long-term statement focused on millennials who have grown up more comfortable with their iPhones than their PCs or Macs," Moorhead said. "No one debates that in the traditional regions, you need a PC or Mac to get your work done."

The iPad people bought in 2012 is good enough.
Eric Kleinsenior mobility analyst at VDC Research Group

Since it was introduced in April 2010, the iPad has been the most popular selling tablet on the market -- and still is, with more than a 20% market share, according to IDC. But iPad sales have dropped for five consecutive quarters, which is a reflection of the market as a whole.

Despite numerous new innovations to make the iPad thinner, faster and more powerful, with a longer battery life and new features, such as Touch ID, Apple has been unable to turn sales around.

"I don't think you'll see a massive round of buying, but it is an attractive device," said Eric Klein, senior mobility analyst at VDC Research Group Inc., in Natick, Mass. "The iPad people bought in 2012 is good enough."

He added that Mac users will never see iPad Pro as an equal substitute.

"Apple loyalists love their Macs," Klein said. "I can't speak for all Mac users, but I would assume that a wide majority would consider any iPad as a complimentary device."

Apple looks to Cisco, IBM

In the summer of 2014, Apple inked a partnership with IBM, where the company would create 100 iOS-exclusive, enterprise-grade apps. Cook revealed during a July earnings call that his company's dipping iPad sales were behind the deal, and believes there is an opportunity for growth in iPad sales through the enterprise.

IBM has unveiled 55 apps to date as part of its MobileFirst catalog for iOS, with no word yet on when the rest are coming.

Apple continues to make a strong push into the enterprise space and change the stigma that its Macs, iPhones and iPads are just for consumers. Cook revealed this fall at BoxWorks that Apple has quietly put together an enterprise business worth about $25 billion in annual revenue.

"The enterprise space is a growth area for Apple, where, to be blunt, it's an opportunity to pick up a lot of business," Moorhead said. "I don't think we've seen the full strategy of what Apple anticipates."

In late August, Apple signed a second major enterprise-focused partnership -- this time with Cisco. Cisco will build a "fast-lane" on its corporate networks that will allow IT departments to prioritize content being delivered to and from iOS devices.

"I do believe Apple is trying to fundamentally change the way people get work done," Moorhead said. "They are changing the way that applications and infrastructure impact the work experience."

Ramin Edmond is a news writer with TechTarget's End User Computing media group. Contact him at [email protected]

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