When it comes to tablets, iPad maintains a substantial lead over the closest competitor Samsung. That said, the overall tablet market is saturated and is shrinking. According to the latest IDC report, iPad experienced an 18.8% decline in iPad shipments in 4Q16. It’s the low end iPad Mini and iPad Air that accounts for a majority of iPad sales.
Last year, Apple tried to lure professionals with the iPad Pro, touting it as a laptop replacement. Many professionals bought into the hype, to see how well the iPad Pro faired. I bought the 12.9” iPad Pro but considering my multi-media production work, I found it inadequate.
I switched it with a 9.7” and used it primarily for reading eBooks, watching movies and writing my novel, mostly during flights when I didn’t have access to my laptop. I never used it beyond that.
While the hardware is decent, iOS lacks way too many features as a productive operating system. But things may change with iOS 11 and the brand new iPad Pro 10.5.
As Craig Federighi, Senior Vice President, Software Engineering at Apple rightly said, 10.5 is an ideal size as it allows for not only the full sized virtual keyboard but a more spacious physical keyboard. In addition, the extra real estate offers relatively more space to work, especially if you were using a split screen.
There are some other increments in the new hardware, such as HDR videos and images, but that’s more on the consumption side of the story. The real game changer is software. iOS 11 is bringing some notable features that may turn the iPad Pro into a productive device for professionals, especially for those people who really don’t need to lug around laptops to check email or work on documents and presentations.
Here are some of the new features of iOS that make iPad Pro more appealing to enterprise customers.
Files: One of the drawbacks of iOS as compared to Android has been lack of a native file manager that exposes the file system to users for better management of files on the device. There were many 3rd party applications like Documents, but nothing beats native file manager.
With iOS 11, users will get Files apps, that just like macOS will provide access to the file system. Since I can’t yet test the app yet, I am not sure if it will support NAS devices as applications like Documents do. However, Files will make it much easier to manage files and work on documents across applications without the mumbo jumbo that iOS is today. The app will support cloud storage and sync services like Dropbox.
Files will improve productivity by offering users more access to the files on the device.
Dock: Apple is essentially bringing the Dock experience that you get on macOS to iOS. It will be available from any screen, just like the Dock on macOS. As a result, it will improve multitasking as you can open and switch apps easily.
Apple is also introducing another feature, in addition to split view, called Slide Over, that allows a second app to be opened on top of the first app with both apps remaining active. A good example would be to keep working on your document in Pages while opening messaging app to reply to a message. Apple has also redesigned App Switcher, which makes it more multitasking friendly.
It also syncs supported apps between iOS and macOS, which allows you to quickly open apps that you were last running on other devices.
Drag & Drop: Drag and Drop will make it easier for professionals to create slides and documents as it makes it very easy to insert images into a document. It works across applications so you can easily move ‘text, photos, and files from one app to another’, as Apple claims.
Pencil: Apple Pencil is undoubtedly the best ‘stylus’ (it’s not a stylus) out there, blowing everything from Microsoft Pen to Samsung Pen out of water. Now Apple has taken some cues from Samsung, and Microsoft and is adding Pencil support across the device.
Apple calls the feature ‘Instant Markup’ that allows you to use Pencil on any app including PDF or images. Quite handy to mark directions on a map or add suggestions to a design. The text written in handwriting is recognized by iOS which is indexed by the Spotlight app.
Scanning: Often you may need to sign a document and send back. If the document is not sent electronically, you need to sign it, scan it and send it back. iOS 11 makes that process quite easy by offering sophisticated Document Scanning capabilities in Notes which, like Microsoft Office Lens, “automatically senses and scans a document, crops the edges, and removes any tilt or glare.’ Then you can use the Pencil to fill in the blanks and sign it and send it back.
All these features, on top of a relatively bigger screen makes iPad Pro 10.5 an idea device for business users. iPad Pro accounts for a very tiny market segment.
According to IDC, Apple sells 1 iPad Pro for every 10 tablets sold, but will things change with iOS 11 and iPad Pro 10.5? I do see a possibility of some uptake, thanks to more macOS-like features being added to iOS.