Apple appears to have at last decided to reveal its large–screened iPad Pro next week.
Fresh reports reveal the tech giant will almost certainly show off the device at its special event on September 9th, suggesting it won’t wait to show its hand at a separate event later in the autumn.
Word is that it will hit shelves in November, with pre–orders going live a month earlier.
The 12.9–inch device has much riding on it and, alongside the new iPad mini 4, will have the task of stemming the tide of declining iPad sales.
In the last quarter, Apple said that iPad sales dropped by 18% year–on–year, with revenues from the device down by 23%.
That represented just the latest in a sorry saga that has seen sales drop over the last six reported quarters, as Apple struggles to match the initial wave of euphoria which greeted the original iPad in 2010 and the iPad mini in 2012.
The iPad Pro, therefore, has a lot too live up to.
The crucial thing to note is that it won’t be focused at average consumers, but enterprises.
Apple has already laid the groundwork for this, announcing a new partnership with Cisco this week. It already has a similar deal with IBM.
Professional tablets have never really taken off, but a larger device which can offer USB–C (strongly mooted to be included on the iPad Pro) and use Apple’s Force Touch via a dedicated stylus, could be appealing to those who don’t want to offer staff hulking old PCs.
That, at least, will be what Apple is hoping for. But there are plenty of other questions which leave us to wonder whether the iPad Pro can really become the go-to device for businesses.
First of all, will iOS be powerful enough to measure up to the best PC software? It seems unlikely, even if Microsoft’s Office suite and Cisco’s VPN smarts are present and correct.
Then there’s the nature of the work that will be done on it.
Tapping out the odd email on an iPad is fine. But try writing on one for an extended period and it's an exercise in frustration.
Unless Apple can offer a decent docking station with a keyboard, then it won’t appeal to those who need to do a lot of typing.
And even if it does have such an accessory, why would users choose one over a MacBook Air?
Time will tell how successful the iPad Pro will be. But already it feels like a niche device that can only serve so much of the market.
Can it be the saviour of the entire product category of tablets on its own? It seems very unlikely.
iPad sales are only likely to rebound when users start upgrading. Expect that to happen once original iPads become clunky.
Until then, such new launches are only going to paper over the cracks for Apple’s one–time bestseller.