The new iPad Pro (it even has a business-friendly name) that the company announced Wednesday has a bigger screen (12.9 inches measured diagonally) and (at extra cost) an optional full-sized keyboard and a stylus called Apple Pencil. Even more pro-business is the specially developed version of Office 365, a cloud-based suite of productivity apps, that Microsoft unfolded for the new model.
At its product announcement event, Apple also introduced new iPhones, the 6S and 6S Plus; changes to the Apple Watch; a new version of Apple TV; and the ninth version of its mobile operating system, iOS.
But the iPad Pro is Apple’s bet with the longest odds, and the company will put its cards on the table in November, when the tablet goes on sale.
Technology users have confined iPads to something of a no-buy zone between increasingly larger smartphones and laptop computers, which has put sales in a tailspin. iPad sales peaked at 26 million units in Apple’s 2014 first quarter (which includes year-end holiday sales). In the company’s 2015 third quarter (the most recent), Apple sold almost 11 million iPads, the lowest quarterly total since the third quarter of 2011.
Apple is betting that the bigger iPad will have the strength to turn around weak tablet sales by breaking into the enterprise market, where Apple products have largely been confined to design, graphics, and marketing departments.
However, in the past two years or so, Apple has reached deals with several companies, notably IBM and Cisco Systems, that use technology themselves and sell big technology to other companies.
IBM has been an enthusiastic partner, developing business-oriented applications for Apple products, including the iPad, and making Macbook Pro laptops available to employees as their work computer.
Just last month Apple and Cisco announced a partnership to speed up Cisco’s networks for Apple’s iOS devices. That means iPhones and iPads will perform at a higher level on Cisco-built networks and its collaboration products such as Telepresence and WebEx.
The iPad Pro is a device built as much for creating content as well as consuming it. With a keyboard and Microsoft Office on board, a more powerful processor, and the capability to run more than one program at a time, it meets the needs of a variety of corporate job functions.
That the iPad Pro offers some of the features of Microsoft’s Surface tablet went unmentioned at the Apple event — despite the on-stage presence of Kirk Koenigsbauer, Microsoft’s VP of Office 365 Client Apps, who demonstrated Office 365.
And perhaps the strongest signal that the iPad Pro is aimed at the corporate market is its pricing. The 32GB model will go for $799, with a 128GB model priced at $949. A Wi-Fi and cellular 128GB model is $1,079.
Prices that a corporation might not love, but be willing to pay.
Tim Green has covered business, technology and science at newspapers and in higher education. At Hoover’s he covers computers and telecommunications. Follow him on Twitter.
Image courtesy of Apple.