The launch of the iPad Pro was a long, long time coming.
Rumours about a large–scale Apple tablet have been kicking around for the best part of two years.
So, now it’s finally official and due to hit shelves in November, it should be easier to discern just who it’s for.
Initially, it was thought that the iPad Pro would be aimed at enterprise users. But as with similarly monikered MacBooks, the Pro version of Apple’s slate is really aimed at creative types.
You only need to watch the promo video for the Apple Pencil, with its ability to shade illustrations, tweak pixels one–by–one and generally offer greater accuracy than a finger to see who Apple wants to buy this device.
Tellingly though, this seems to be the only area in which Apple wants to have control over the Pro’s central software.
It invited Adobe up for a cringeworthy, misogynistic spot where an exec gave a frowning model a smile in Photoshop, something which has been rightly derided on social media.
But perhaps more fascinatingly, it asked Microsoft onstage to show off how Office for iPad would work on the Pro.
Apple said ‘no one knows productivity better than Microsoft’. Cue a demo of neat tricks you can do with an iPad Pro’s touchscreen using Word and Excel.
No word on Pages, Numbers and Keynote. Apple knows power users have no truck with its iWork suite.
Microsoft’s influence was even more evident with the folding keyboard case.
Essentially, the iPad Pro is Apple’s take on a Microsoft Surface, but with the ability to act as a regular iPad for gaming and watching movies.
It all begs the question, why exactly would you buy one? A 12.9–inch screen on a tablet is huge. Too big.
Yes you can detach the keyboard accessory and prop it up to watch clips, yes you can use the touchscreen to get in touch with your creative side.
But for the US price of $799 for a 32GB iPad Pro, $169 for the Smart Keyboard and $99 for the Apple Pencil, a total of $1,067, you can pick up a 128GB MacBook Air instead for just $899 Stateside (£749 here).
OK, the screen might not have the same resolution. But the Intel chipset and OS X are going to be far better at handling the likes of Photoshop and Microsoft Office than any iOS device.
Perhaps Apple is looking to bring an end to its MacBook Air line and instead replace it with the iPad Pro, although that seems unlikely.
If it thinks such a pricey device, not to mention one which is nowhere near as convenient to carry around as smaller iPads or MacBooks, can save its iPad business it is surely deluded.
Sales of the iPad have been in decline for 18 months. Users clearly don’t upgrade their tablets as regularly as smartphones.
Perhaps by adding 3D Touch and better processors to its smaller iPads it might have a chance of turning things around.
But it’s hard to imagine the iPad Pro, so clearly a niche device for Apple obsessives, being the fix for the tablet line-up’s woes.