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Envisioning an iPad Pro

Ted Landau | Jan. 16, 2014
Apple's iPad Air has received overwhelming praise as the best full-size tablet you can buy, and it'll likely rack up sales records for this past holiday season. And why not? It's lighter, thinner, smaller, and faster than its predecessor. In fact, it's so "impossibly light" that Jason Snell described handling it as being "like picking up a movie prop." Thus the obvious rationale for adding the word Air to the iPad's moniker.

Unfortunately, given Apple's history of avoiding any moves in this direction — by restricting access to file storage on iOS devices as well as keeping ports to a minimum on all Apple computers — I have little confidence that the company will implement such a change.

If not external ports, then what? I don't know. In the end, this has me thinking that an iPad Pro could turn out to be little more than a larger iPad Air after all.

Who would want a larger iPad?
At this point, I can imagine many readers throwing up their collective hands, decrying: "This makes no sense. The iPad market is moving toward smaller displays, not larger ones. The iPad mini's market share continues to grow. It's expected to eclipse the sales of the Air. No one wants an iPad that is even less portable than the iPad Air."

Excellent points that are hard to argue with. Still, I see a potential audience for a larger iPad. Apple could target it at iPad users who value a larger display more than maximum portability. If you plan to use an iPad primarily in just one or two locations, with an emphasis on productivity tasks, you might fit the profile. Bear in mind that, even with a 13-inch display, a hypothetical iPad Pro qualifies as portable; it would still likely be smaller and lighter than a MacBook Air.

Could an iPad Pro suffice as Mac replacement?
The Web is overflowing with articles about the shift away from traditional computers and toward tablets. For a significant minority of users, a tablet is already their primary or only computing device. An iPad Pro would likely further that trend.

Still, for the vast majority of pro users, with their emphasis on work and productivity over leisure and consumption, a Mac would likely remain essential for the foreseeable future. Yes, you can get work done with an iPad; that debate has largely been settled. And, as this Apple video makes clear, there are already many "work" situations where an iPad functions better than a MacBook.

Still, there's no way any iPad can compete with the raw power of a Mac Pro or even a top-end iMac. At least not yet. Until an iPad can run Final Cut Pro, Logic Pro, Photoshop CS, BBEdit, Terminal, and other "pro" apps; until an iPad's touchscreen interface is as effective as a Mac's trackpad for working with these apps; until iOS adds features that close the file system gap with OS X; and until you can develop iOS apps on an iOS device, pro users will continue to need Macs.

That aside, an iPad Pro would up the ante. Accelerating a trend that has already begun, many desktop Mac owners would potentially choose an iPad over a laptop as their secondary computer. For an increasing number of non-pro users, an iPad will suffice as their only computer. Whatever an iPad Pro turns out to be — even if it turns out to be more rumor than reality — the iPad itself will remain at the core of Apple's future.


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