By Kathryn Nassberg
September 11, 2015 at 5:00 am ET
After nearly a year of rumors, Apple finally announced the newest addition to its line of tablets, the 12.9 inch iPad Pro. It’s the company’s largest iPad yet. With this device, Apple is hoping to breathe new life into the tablet market, which has lagged considerably behind smartphones in demand. Once touted as the herald of the post-PC era and destined to follow the same stratospheric rise of the iPhone, the iPad – and much of the consumer tablet market – has stalled and even shrunk. Apple’s tablet sales have been in decline since 2013 and have fallen nearly 20 percent from 2014, which is indicative of a rapidly maturing market that has seen considerable saturation within the space of a few short years (despite feeling as though it’s eons ago that the original iPad made its debut in 2010). As Apple continues to place a greater emphasis on the enterprise, the question remains as to whether the plus-sized device will help to reverse the iPad’s downward trend.
A consumer device with enterprise designs
Despite the Pro moniker, much of the emphasis on the new flagship tablet centered on the consumer-grade elements of the device – its resolution, its speakers, its GPU, and generally emphasizing its capabilities for media consumption. However, attention quickly focused on the enterprise elements of the iPad Pro, with its multitasking abilities and the introduction of its first stylus, the Apple Pencil. This likely would have been much to the chagrin of the late Steve Jobs, who emphatically proclaimed in 2010, “If you see a stylus, they blew it.” At first blush, it appears that Apple seeks to build on its reputation for the creative side of enterprise, with an emphasis on design and editing of media that will undoubtedly hold appeal to artists and designers. However, in broadening its business appeal, Apple appears to have taken a leaf from Microsoft’s design book with the inclusion of the Smart Keyboard, which has a layout that is strikingly similar to the increasingly popular Surface Pro 3.
Will bigger mean a better enterprise presence?
Apple has been placing a growing emphasis on enterprise across all its form factors and seeking to leverage its partnership with IBM, which it announced last summer. The alliance, which provides native iOS applications through IBM’s MobileFirst enterprise mobility solutions, has been building a growing base of industry-specific applications and solutions, in addition to introducing its Mac at Work initiative this summer to widen the Macbook’s enterprise footprint. While there has been considerable traction in bringing Apple into the enterprise in a scalable and manageable manner, most deployments to date have been as purely mobile complement to workflows rather than as a notebook replacement. Most often, it’s the retail associate using the iPad for point-of-sale and inventory lookup or the field sales agent using the tablet for CRM purposes. The question remains as to whether Apple can use its tremendous popular appeal to make the tablet into a true notebook replacement, as many originally envisioned the form factor, particularly given the modest success of the competition to date. Furthermore, this will have to be done without risking the cannibalization of Macbook sales. In a market that is undergoing unprecedented change at an ever-increasing rate, all eyes will be on Apple to see if it can once again shape the course of enterprise mobility.
Kathryn Nassberg is a Research Analyst for Enterprise Mobility and Connected Devices.