At its huge new product event last week, Apple's Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller said the forthcoming iPad Pro can "do things a notebook can't.” But can the large tablet really replace a notebook? Can it even replace an iPad Air 2?
Schiller said the iPad Pro lets you do things you can't on a laptop or desktop PC, and as an example, he showed a demo of the iPad Pro's big touch screen being used to play a piano keyboard. (Of course, you can also do this with any iPad today.)
To bolster his case for a "pro" iPad, Schiller called representatives from Microsoft, Adobe, and 3D4Medical on stage, each of whom took turns highlighting the "pinpoint precision" of drawing, illustrating, 3D modeling, document markup, page layout, and human-anatomy modeling enabled by the iPad Pro's specially-equipped Retina screen, super-fast processing power, and Apple's new Pencil stylus ($99).
The roughly 30 minutes spent during the event on iPad Pro are a classic example of Apple doing what it does best: creating strong desire for its products. By the end of the presentation, I found myself already growing impatient that November, when the iPad Pro is expected to be released, is two months away.
The next day, however, logic crept back in. I have a rule about purchasing technology: I make myself sell another piece of tech I own to at least partially fund the new device. When the iPad Air 2 was released, I sold my iPad Air, for example.
So what, exactly, would I sell to help foot the bill for the pricey iPad Pro, which starts at $799?
The iPad Pro won't replace my laptop
Despite having a lot of cool new features, the iPad Pro will not replace my MacBook Air, that's for sure. the iPad Pro can apparently do things a notebook can’t, but the opposite is also true. For starters, part of my regular work is inputting text and images into different content management systems (CMS) for clients. None of those systems work well with mobile Web browsers, such as Apple's Safari. So the iPad Pro will be useless to me in that sense.
My MacBook Air also gets up to 12 hours of battery life versus the Pro's 10 hours, and those extra hours are important on long travel days. As powerful as mobile apps are today, their feature sets are rarely the equivalent of their desktop counterparts.
The iPad Pro won't replace my desktop
I'm definitely not going to sell my 27-inch iMac to fund an iPad Pro, even though Schiller mentioned the "desktop class" processing power of Apple's new tablet several times during his presentation.
Here's one big reason why: I use a three-screen setup in my home office. My Microsoft Word, Safari and Chrome windows live on the big iMac. On one external monitor, I keep a Wunderlist to-do list and Google calendar windows open at all times. I use the other external monitor for email. An iPad Pro couldn't possibly allow me to be this productive.
The iPad Pro (probably) won't replace my tablet
That leaves my iPad Air 2 as the only potential sacrifice. But do I really want to curl up on the sofa after a long day with such a large and comparatively heavy tablet? (The iPad Air 2 weighs 0.96 lbs., compared to iPad Pro's 1.57 lbs.) Would I take the iPad Pro to the park to read an ebook or magazine? It's possible — but I doubt it. That said, I can envision reading The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and San Francisco Chronicle iOS apps every morning at home or in a coffee shop on an iPad Pro and loving it.
Bottom Line: iPad Pro really won't replace anything
In other words, at this early stage of the game, the iPad Pro will replace ... nothing, at least for most people.
Microsoft's Surface tablets, to which the iPad Pro has often been compared, can replace a Windows laptop, because Surface tablets run the full Windows 10 OS. Apple's latest tablet runs iOS, so it falls into its own category — it's much more powerful than a standard iOS tablet, but it can't do many things a Mac OS X computer can.
Apple has a history of risking the cannibalization of one product line when it introduces another. The iPhone slowly gobbled up the iPod's mainstream success, for example; and the iPhone 6 Plus ate into iPad mini sales.
With iPad Pro, Apple shrewdly developed a tablet that could replace a MacBook laptop for certain categories of users (such as graphics professionals), but for most, especially enterprise workers, the iPad Pro could become a third computing device that's used for specific applications.
Will IT departments balk at yet another computing device they have to buy, support and secure? Will mainstream consumers who already own an iPad upgrade to an iPad Pro? Will powerful tablets eventually replace notebooks completely?
Anything is possible, and Apple has an uncanny way of inciting fans to buy things they don't need, only to wonder later how they ever lived without them.