There's no argument that the iPad has infiltrated itself into business use way beyond its capabilities - lets be honest here, it's not the most secure of computing devices. However it became such a must-have device but was and is priced as a premium commodity that inevitably it was those who were heading up the upper echelons of businesses and organisations who managed to get hold of the devices first, flexing their corporate budgets to obtain something that was initially quite elitist. The question of security was probably swept under the carpet - if the boss wants an iPad, he gets an iPad.
Roll forward a few years and the iPad is still a premium commodity item, is still as insecure as ever and to be fair there's a few other premium tablets vying for part of Apple's business at a similar price point, although the trend has been towards the budget end. Ultimately the iPad and most of the other slates are just consumer devices, only some tablets cost more limbs than others. However Microsoft have shown that there is a need for a secure tablet in the market - or as secure as any Microsoft product can be as they are inevitably the target for the majority of the attempts to compromise their OS due to their ubiquitous position in the business and domestic sectors. Whether it has been Microsoft entering the tablet arena that has spurred Apple, or whether if was always part of their game plan, isn't known. But it seems like they are moving towards a Professional-orientated iPad next year.
Whether the device will be iOS or based on iMac software is an interesting starting point for consideration - the systems are too far apart to be merged at this point in time. But there is a compelling argument for either approach - make the iPad Pro an extension of the MacBook range and software and you have what Microsoft have been aiming at, at the risk of alienating the traditional iPad power users who would happily pay for the Pro as an extended iOS device, or base it on a secure version of iOS so that it can access all those apps - now understood to have passed the 1 million mark - at the risk of limiting its compatibility with traditional Apple computer users.
Cost is going to be an interesting element, too, given that the consumer device is already priced high. Apple tends towards premium pricing generally and let's face it, Microsoft have eased the market for this with its Surface Pro pricing strategy. Apple laptops and desktops have tended to be more expensive than their Microsoft software based competitors historically, so pitching just above the Surface Pro price point probably wouldn't be unreasonable to the Apple faithful. Of course Microsoft have the initiative here and could drop the Surface Pro pricing ahead of any iPad Pro launch, increasing the differential price pressure on Apple.
The biggest question, though, has to be around connectivity. Apple really has to think long and hard about its resistance to using industry standard interfaces such as USB, HDMI and micro SD slots. OK, we're all getting our heads around the cloud now, but Wi-Fi isn't as omnipresent as it should be. Of course Apple would likely include 4G as standard in a Pro model, but that may not fit in fully with every commercial organisations security profile.
An iPad for the grown up world is long overdue and looks like it should be here before mid 2014. Not only should it gladden the hearts of the iPad professionals and their long worrying ICT managers, it should exert a downward pressure on the prices of the consumer devices of all flavours. In fact Google should worry because this is a race they currently cannot compete in and could lead to an erosion of the Android brand. Microsoft should view this as healthy and supporting their strategy; Apple competing validates the sector and makes it more robust.
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