iOS 9 features hint at an iPad Pro future


If Apple makes a dedicated keyboard folio or dock for the iPad Pro, it would allow the tablet to compete in the same two-in-one hybrid space as the Lenovo ThinkPad 10, Microsoft Surface 3, Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 and Asus Transformer Book T100HA. The keyboard would enhance the iPad's position as a content creation tool. In fact, Samsung didn't make its own branded keyboards for the Galaxy tablets until it debuted the productivity-centric Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 with a 12.2-inch screen.

Given that current iPad market share is cannibalized by larger smartphones like Apple's iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus models, a larger iPad Pro with a focus on productivity with a keyboard dock could help Apple appeal to enterprise customers and productivity users. It would also allow Apple to capitalise on the growing interest in two-in-one devices at a time when the tablet market is declining, according to IDC and Gartner reports.

Businesses could benefit from such a solution as executives can carry a single device rather than having to travel with a tablet and a laptop. This reduces total hardware cost for deployment, time in having to manage data between two separate devices and travel weight.

It's all in the touch

Since Apple made no mention of iOS 9 supporting Bluetooth mice or trackpads, the main difference between the iPad Pro with a keyboard cover and devices like the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 with its Type Cover is that the Apple solution may not come with a trackpad. Instead, users would likely type with the hardware keyboard and perform trackpad functions with the iPad Pro's touchscreen.

This doesn't mean that Apple hasn't thought about touchpad support on the iPad Pro. Federighi demonstrated that touchpad functionality could be replicated with touchscreen gestures.

Tapping the Quick Type keyboard with two fingers would enable a trackpad on the software keyboard. In his demo, Federighi showed that users can easily highlight text to copy with this software trackpad feature.

"It starts with something simple like how you work with text," Federighi said. "What makes a multitouch keyboard so special is it can be anything you want."

Other features

In addition to improved hardware keyboard support, multitasking and Quick Type keyboard, other iOS 9 features introduced by Federighi include two-factor authentication for iCloud security as well as better battery life, key features that are important to business users.

While better iCloud security will make Apple's services – like Home Kit and integration with Pages, Numbers and Keynote – more attractive, enterprise users may still demand hardware security. Even though Touch ID can match fingerprint readers on enterprise-class tablets, it's unclear if Apple will be able to match other readers, like smart card support, encryption and TPM.

The new features introduced in iOS 9 have set the stage for the iPad Pro's introduction, whenever Apple is ready to launch the highly hyped tablet. Combined with the robust catalog of app titles available for iOS, ease of use and Apple's partnership with former rival IBM, Apple is looking to push more of its tablets into the enterprise. Whether the iPad Pro will cannibalize the MacBook in Apple's renewed post-PC push is anyone's guess at this point.