What would we do if Microsoft launched a Surface tablet with a version of Windows meant for phones? We’d laugh at it, and we wouldn’t buy it. Hence, the $900 million inventory write-down Microsoft absorbed on its Surface RT, which utilized a gimped version of Windows rather than the one people actually wanted. Fast-forward a few years, and we’re asking ourselves something similar about an Apple product. Will a 12.9-inch iPad — very clearly designed to rival the Surface market — be met with the same indifference? Or will the iPad pedigree give it the push it needs to succeed?
The Details: The ginormous iPad Pro starts at $799 for the 32GB wi-fi model, is finished in silver, gold or space gray, and will ship at some point during the month of November.
The Good News
Finally, iPad Multitasking
Samsung has enjoyed a long period of exclusivity when it comes to tablet multitasking, beating Apple to the punch with its Galaxy Note line of stylus-equipped tablets. The iPad Pro becomes the first iPad to support the use of two apps at once, which certainly adds credibility to Apple’s claim that the iPad isn’t just for consumption, but also for creation. In today’s demo, we even saw Microsoft execs utilizing Word and Excel side-by-side, with copy and paste functions working seamlessly between the two. In related news, the temperature in Hades dropped to a record low.
As Apple continues to target the casual gamer as its next major market, the iPad Pro is an ideal product to take the place of conventional handhelds. The potent A9X processor and its accompanying GPU are roughly twice as fast as any other iPad, enabling game developers to dish out iOS games that rival those found on desktops. Plus, it’s really fun to hold a giant screen and play a video game on it.
Everyone has a weird name for their proprietary stylus. Samsung went with S Pen, Microsoft with Pen, and Apple with Pencil. The $99 accessory has a sophisticated array of sensors that works in tandem with the iPad Pro’s sensor-laden display to detect tilt and implied force. Creatives who prefer to draw, annotate, or sketch on a digital surface will be in heaven here, with full pressure sensitivity and the ability to charge via a Lightning port.
The Bad News
During a financial call in 2012, an analyst asked Apple CEO Tim Cook about the potential for an iPad that ran Mac OS X. His answer? “You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but those aren’t going to be pleasing to the user.” So, instead of getting an iPad Pro with a real OS — which promises desktop-class benchmarks, mind you — we’re getting a giant iPad that does iPad things. It’s a massive missed opportunity to bring OS X onto a new form factor. Apple can continue to believe that filmmakers are going to shoot and edit entire projects on an iPad, but the harsh reality is that real work gets done on real operating systems.
If you thought Apple’s decision to ship a 16GB iPhone 6s was ludicrous, chew on this: the base iPad Pro has 32GB of internal storage. For a product supposedly engineered to house all sorts of photo, video, and audio-related creativity, one has to wonder where all of that goodness is going to be housed. If you’re screaming about the cloud, consider this: many projects are shown on rural locations, in set buildings with zero coverage, and in boardrooms where LTE can be hit or miss. Having local access to one’s portfolio is vital, and Apple’s decision to skimp on storage undermines the entire premise of the iPad Pro. Even more insulting is that your only other model option has just 128GB rather than, say, 1TB.
No Force Touch or 3D Touch
Apple managed to include a version of Force Touch on its iPhone, but on its flagship iPad Pro? No such luck. What’s even stranger about the omission is Apple’s focus on creativity. Sure, the Apple Pencil can detect pressure, but what if you’re in a pinch and need to use your finger? Or, heaven forbid, a stylus that doesn’t cost a Benjamin?
Pricing (Pain) Points
The 32GB iPad Pro ($799) isn’t even worth talking about, so let’s look at the 128GB model ($949). Throw in a $99 Apple Pencil and a $169 Smart Keyboard (which adds a physical keyboard for typing, but no added battery life), and you’re looking at a package total of $1,217. For $18 less, you can nab a 13-inch MacBook Air with a real operating system, 256GB of storage, the ability to run 30 or more apps at once, and a battery that lasts 2 hours longer than the aforesaid iPad Pro. Yeah, that’s Apples to (other) Apples, but the point remains: the iPad Pro is not the iPad worth buying.