Why the iPad Pro could be good for Microsoft
Apple Inc.’s new iPad — though not expected to sell like crazy — could lift the entire market for large, touchscreen slates, boosting the fortunes of Microsoft, Dell and several other hardware makers.
Going on sale in November, the iPad Pro comes with features and accessories designed to make it more suitable as a work machine than the first nine iPad models. Its screen size is just a centimeter less than the MacBook Pro’s 13-inch display, and it weighs half the laptop. It supports running multiple apps at once and works well with speedy Internet connections.
In fact, in introducing the iPad Pro at an event in San Francisco on Wednesday, Apple stated that the processor and display on the iPad Pro were superior to many popular laptops. Most demos focused on using the iPad Pro to create, edit and calculate, a stark leap from five years ago when then-Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs introduced the iPad as a thing to read, watch and listen.
Hardware analysts say the new capabilities along with a stylus and keyboards sold separately should instantly make the iPad Pro attractive to workers in healthcare, construction and other industries. They could find the new device more tenable to work on than a big-screened smartphone and less clunky to lug around than small laptops.
But because many companies remain tethered to programs that work only on Microsoft Windows, corporate equipment purchasers aren’t likely to jump for the $799 iPad Pro let alone the $1,079 high-end option with a cellular chip.
Apple is closing that gap by having vendors such as IBM, Cisco, Adobe and even Microsoft make their technology work well with iPhones, iPads and Macs. The recently announced deal with Cisco, for instance, means iPhone users will enjoy higher-quality video chats than Android users when in offices powered by Cisco networking equipment.
The deals are significant, but not enough for the iPad Pro to become the device of choice inside businesses, said J.P. Gownder, vice president and principal analyst at consulting firm Forrester Research Inc.
“Companies have invested lots of money into legacy software not available or not effective in iOS,” he said, referring to the iPad’s operating system. “That’s going to make it very challenging to move your workforce to the new device.”
What the new iPad does do is give credibility to more laptop-like tablets, said Jean Philippe Bouchard, research director for tablets at IDC.
Microsoft’s Surface Pro line of big tablets, first unveiled three years ago, only recently started to catch on. Now, as people buzz about the iPad Pro and possibly buy one and bring it to work, more corporate technology managers could be forced to give the Surface or newly announced competitors from Dell, Toshiba and Lenovo a second look, analysts said.
Dell’s decision this week to sell and provide technical support for the Surface Pro 3 to businesses “will further turbocharge the energy” around the iPad Pro’s Windows-based rivals, Gownder said.
That momentum is why IDC estimates shipments for larger, so-called two-in-one tablets will expand by 80% in the U.S. next year, while purchasing of traditional, smaller tablets drops 11%.
The iPad Pro is “a refresh for my old iPad and a refresh for my laptop,” Bouchard said. “It might be a way to not get both.”
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