A truly portable computer
And so this is where the 9.7-inch iPad Pro fits in. Just as with laptops, people often have a preference for size that is unique to their work. Maybe they work on the train a lot or find themselves out-and-about and don't want to shift a heavy computer. For these sort of use cases, even the 12.9-inch iPad Pro may be too much. During the unveiling, Apple made a big deal out of the new Pro's weight – under a pound for the Wi-Fi model – signalling that this is, finally, a truly portable computer.
The company also touted the one million iPad-ready apps that are now in the App Store, all of which can provide an experience that is similar – in broad strokes, at least – to using a full-screen app on a laptop. The addition of split-screen multitasking also shows that the iPad Pro is a computer, not a tablet, and the 9.7-inch model is just a more portable version.
However, it's still unclear if the intended market – businesses – will bite. Microsoft has been having some success lately with its Surface tablet thanks to Windows 10 and distribution deals with Dell and HP that get the tablet-laptop hybrid into the hands of workers.
Selling to enterprise customers is not like selling to consumers. Everything must be checked, double-checked, then triple-checked and the process can take a very long time. Luckily for Microsoft, it has a lot of experience with this as many, many businesses use Windows and obsess over new versions. Unfortunately for Apple, it does not have a lot of experience in this area.
That's not to say that the new iPad Pro will be a failure. People love Apple products, which is part of the reason that Apple can even contemplate selling to businesses at all. The iPhone has made its way into the hands of employees who have collectively insisted that it become the standard phone in many companies. They are used to iOS and already use a ton of iOS apps that help them day-to-day.
Introducing a smaller, premium iPad is a smart move by Apple and, ultimately, could work as a Hail Mary. The iPhone business still drives the majority of Apple's profits, giving the iPad some headroom to figure out what, exactly, it wants to be and who will use it.
Phil Schiller, Apple's head of marketing, may think that it's "sad" that people still use PCs that are over five-years-old, but that's just the reality of the market and plenty of people are happy with an iPad from 2010 or 2011. In a few years, maybe they will upgrade, but that's far from a certainty and moving away from this market and into a more high-growth (and predictable replacement) market such as the business arena is wise.
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Max Slater-Robins has been writing about technology for nearly a decade at various outlets, covering the rise of the technology giants, trends in enterprise and SaaS companies, and much more besides. Originally from Suffolk, he currently lives in London and likes a good night out and walks in the countryside.