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The 9.7” iPad Pro
Cook reiterated that the iPad is still Apple’s vision for the future of computing. The 9.7” iPad Pro is Apple’s second step towards achieving that vision. Apple Marketing VP Phil Schiller introduced the new device, addressing Windows PC users, thus targeting PC users in general to make the switch. But were today’s iPad announcements compelling enough to make that happen?
Overall, the iPhone SE and 9.7” iPad Pro aim to fit existing technology into smaller bodies to address markets accustomed to those sizes. However, the 9.7” Pro actually offers a couple of things that its bigger 12” sibling doesn’t, particularly with its display.
The display is 40% less reflective, has 25% greater colour saturation, has a wider colour gamut, and is “True Tone”, meaning the display is slightly tinted to reflect the surrounding the environment. This gives the device an edge over the larger Pro (it also has a better 12MP camera), which I think is indicative of Apple not being afraid to make devices they really believe in the best they possibly can be, even if they leapfrog other tiers in the lineup.
That said, it’s effectively just as powerful and featured as the 12” Pro - it also has Pencil support and a four-speaker system. When you factor in its increased portability, I think the decision regarding which Pro model to buy boils down to screen size vs. portability. I think the prevailing notion about iPad is that it should be portable - the 12” iPad Pro, arguably a desktop device, in its large size might have turned off some potential buyers due to it being unwieldy in portable use.
With the 9.7” Pro, I think Apple is addressing two markets: the market for professional users looking for something smaller than the 12” Pro (including some of the PC users Apple wants to convert), and the market of older iPad users looking to upgrade or finding compelling reasons to upgrade. I think the combination of these two markets is a really big group of people - bigger than the larger Pro’s target market - perhaps big in the same way that the 4”-phone market surprisingly was to me.
One other big thing that was announced is a new iPad accessory, a powered USB adapter that connects via the Lightning port. It’s another indication that PC users are being targeted, as peripherals usually connected to PC’s can now be used with an iPad. It’s used primarily for cameras, but Schiller mentioned that podcasters could use it to connect mics (I’d assume other types of mics for other recording purposes, e.g. music, could be connected as well). I don’t fully understand the specifics of the range of products that the accessory enables connectivity for, but it’s good to see Apple accommodate more peripherals in aims to attract more professionals that use them often.
The event itself
In terms of product announcements, it’s easy to see this as a minor event: CareKit, new Watch bands, and two smaller versions of products that already exist (with a few new technologies in the 9.7” iPad Pro). On the other hand, in launching the iPhone SE and 9.7” iPad Pro, the iPhone and iPad now have perhaps the widest ranging tiers they’ve ever had.
The last few years have been about making both devices larger and faster. Now, the smaller sizes lots of people have grown accustomed and attached to - including people who haven’t upgraded in the past few years - are now made available, being mostly on par with the larger-sized tiers. In other words, when choosing between available iPhone and iPad models, its hard to make a wrong choice when the internals in all the models are Apple's latest (not sure about the iPad minis, though). Size matters more than ever.
The current iOS device lineup is testament to the integrated approach - overseeing hardware, software, and services in products - that Apple has perfected with its iOS devices. They’ve also made clear that their impact doesn’t end there as they continue to uphold their social and environmental responsibilities.
At the same time, by prioritising their segments on their successes in these areas, they’ve put themselves under a microscope. Instead of shying away from it, as their culture of secrecy would probably permit, they do the exact opposite. And they’re aware of it.
I think it’s because they genuinely care. They understand that being the biggest company in the world has wide-ranging responsibilities that they should be held accountable for by the media and the general public. They also understand that they’re in a position to be an example; an example that financial success can be found in standing for what’s right and investing time, money, and effort into initiatives that make the world a better place.
To me, this event strengthened Apple’s foundations, perhaps a necessity after a couple of years of radical new products. It strengthened the foundations in the iPhone and iPad lineup and it reintroduced us to the company’s own foundations. With that said, expect Apple to build upon those foundations and introduce us to the more exciting things in its product pipeline.