More on the iPad Pro

I feel like Gene Munster, where just as he perpetually beats upon his iTV drum so, too, do I all too frequently return to the iPad Pro. Since Apple’s iPad event, after receiving my MacBook Pro, and all throughout the ensuing period during which I began to define the different roles this new device and my trusty iPad would fill, this topic and Tim Cook’s comment to that effect have occupied a great deal of my consciousness. Unfortunately, I could find no written record of Tim Cook referring to such a device despite numerous verbal accounts; however, when questioned before October’s iPad event as to whether Apple would release an iPad Pro, he responded (with a smile) in saying, “We already make one: the 11″ MacBook Air.” I find this statement interesting for a number of reasons.

First, I cannot help but think Tim Cook considering Apple’s 11” MacBook Air compatible with the job consumers hire an iPad to do a very curious notion in that I believe it fatally flawed. As a tablet, consumers hire iPads to do radically different jobs than MacBook Airs of any size, including the 11”. Those wanting an iPad Pro do not merely desire a larger device with a keyboard; they want a larger iPad running iOS instead of the hacked-together iPad and Bluetooth keyboard pairing that has sufficed up until now. Even if Apple’s smallest Airs meet that first criterion, their qualifications do not extend beyond that.

If satisfactory in the first regard, why, then, do consumers reject it based solely upon the second? In other words, why do consumers consider MACOSX1 such a negative experience as to inhibit the purchase of a device they so clearly desire? The answer to this question, I believe, lies in the iPad’s perception.

Since debuting a veritable war has raged between two factions arguing not whether iPads had the capability to serve as content creation tools in addition to their undisputed role as top-tier consumption devices, but whether one could create anything meaningful using Apple’s tablet platform. If this distinction sounds pedantic and nuanced, it is; perhaps therein lies the problem perpetuating this never-ending debate. Over time the likes of Federico Viticci and Horace Dediu began to come forward demonstrating an impressive ability to not only accomplish similar tasks using only an iPad, but to perform those tasks better than previously possible when employing a full-fledged computer. To many, the iPad has obviated the desktop computer for all but a small subset of rare tasks. This near-imperceptible shift soon saw Apple’s iPads held up as the epitome of productivity, lauded for their greatly simplified environments conducive to the work we as a community prize so highly. The iPad’s fame came in no small part due to the form factor, but by and large stemmed from the heavy-handed constraints iOS imposed and the ingenuity that it forced as a result. On the other hand, the Mac OS imposes very few such restrictions relative to those of iOS, and accordingly few consider it in as a complementary light.

Even more subtle than form factor and underlying operating system though is the perceptible paradigm shift between these two devices. In most people’s minds the Mac has become another portal for work; the novelty has worn off just as it did with the PC years earlier. Conversely, the iPad remains a bastion of delightful whimsy kept from going too far in the wrong direction by a strict adherence to the hard and fast — and praiseworthy — guiding principle of simplicity above (almost) all else. The desire for an iPad Pro is a cry for Apple to bring that source of happiness into their work life with an iPad capable of handling their work with ease, while also remaining true to their current perception of the device. I’d say Apple has their work cut out for them.