Apple is making a big push for its big iPad.
The iPad Pro, which goes on sale Wednesday, is the largest and most powerful device in Apple's iPad lineup. It has a 12.9-inch screen, while the iPad Air 2 has a 9.7-inch screen. You can also get an optional keyboard cover and a stylus.
And Apple is making bold claim about the iPad Pro that'll be very difficult to back up. This isn't just a bigger iPad, Apple says. It's a replacement for your laptop.
In interviews with The Telegraph and The Independent this week, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the iPad Pro will be the device a lot of people will be able to use instead of a traditional laptop.
“I think if you’re looking at a PC, why would you buy a PC anymore?" Cook told The Telegraph in an interview.
And he told The Independent: "You can marry [the iPad Pro] with a keyboard cover that turns it into a laptop replacement, say."
That's a claim we've heard before. When Microsoft released the first Surface tablet in 2012, it was pitched as a miracle machine, something that could run full PC programs, but also touch-friendly tablet apps. It didn't fully live up to that promise. Neither did the second, third, and now the fourth Surface. (However, the new Surface Book, which is laptop with a screen that can detach and be used as a tablet, comes close.)
But the iPad Pro is actually more limited than the Surface. It runs iOS, which isn't compatible with desktop programs. And developers have been slow to make innovative apps for the iPad. There's little indication that they'll suddenly gravitate towards the iPad Pro just because it has a big screen and a keyboard. The iPad Pro will continue to function as just a jumbo-sized iPad unless developers push the hardware past content consumption apps for streaming video or reading.
I think Ben Thompson, an independent tech analyst at Stratechery, put it best in a post he wrote the week Apple unveiled the iPad Pro:
That, then, means that Cook’s conclusion that Apple could best improve the iPad by making a new product isn’t quite right: Apple could best improve the iPad by making it a better platform for developers. Specifically, being a great platform for developers is about more than having a well-developed SDK, or an App Store: what is most important is ensuring that said developers have access to sustainable business models that justify building the sort of complicated apps that transform the iPad’s glass into something indispensable.
In other words, Apple created some incredible hardware with the iPad Pro, but it hasn't given developers the tools they need to transform that hardware into something truly innovative and revolutionary.
Yes, some apps from great companies like Adobe, Microsoft, and FiftyThree will be ready for the iPad Pro, but I'm not convinced they'll be enough to get someone to spend $930 on an iPad Pro and keyboard instead of $900 on a MacBook Air.
I used the iPad Pro briefly at Apple's big launch event back in September. It was nice. The stylus worked well. The keyboard cover felt unfinished and difficult to type on. But nothing about what I saw in that brief interaction hinted that this was a replacement for my MacBook.
It just felt like a really big iPad.