What’s Going to Make or Break the iPad Pro

It might not be what you think…

Introduction

The iPad Pro is now available at an Apple Store near you. With everything that it can do – differently – than your run of the mill iPad, this thing could be huge in the corporate world. However, its going to take a little bit; and not everyone or everything is keen on its (potential) success.

The iPad Pro is the first iPad you can take to work. It has a native keyboard. Previous iPads didn’t come with a native keyboard. They have a smart cover only. If you want some kind of a keyboard, you have to go third party; and then (nearly) all of those keyboards connect to your iPad via Bluetooth.

ipad pro

The iPad Pro has a native, hardware keyboard cover that that connects to the device via three small contacts on the long edge of the device. The keyboard is backlit, powered by the device, and provides a standardized, tactile experience when typing with it. While third party keyboards are available – like the Logitech CREATE – this is the first iPad keyboard available directly from Apple for their tablet.

There is one big caveat, though – the hardware upgrade cycle on the iPad Pro has to be longer than one year. It needs to be closer to three to five years, or something that more closely and appropriately matches corporate computer leasing cycles – which may be two to three years or longer. The hardware is expensive enough without having to draw to purchase something new each and every year.

Given that, this isn’t what is going to make the iPad Pro great.

The iPad Pro also has a new stylus called the Apple Pencil. This is the first stylus for iPad that Apple has created as a native accessory for the iPad.

I’m certain that Steve Jobs is now rolling over in his grave.

Steve was always adamant that the iPad would never have or need a stylus. In fact, back in 2010 when most mobile devices had plastic sticks for a stylus, Steve Jobs was adamant that the only stylus an iPad user would ever need was their index finger. It worked. It couldn’t get lost, and materially contributed to the productivity and simplicity of the device.

In essence… Steve Jobs gave us the finger. Oh goody…

The Apple Pencil has 2048 different levels of pressure sensitivity. It has a rechargeable battery (where 15 seconds of charge will give you 30 minutes of battery life). Its weighted and doesn’t feel like it will snap in half when you use it. It can be used for creative purposes (drawing, painting, calligraphy, etc.), for technical purposes like schematics and blueprints, as well as for handwriting and notes.

But this isn’t what will make the iPad Pro great.

Honestly, the one thing that will make the iPad Pro great, is the one thing that it really doesn’t have yet.

Apps

Yes, apps; and more importantly, iPad Pro specific apps.

The hardware is in place. The iOS ecosystem exists and functions well. The App Store is in place and sells apps for all iDevices. The one thing that the iPad Pro doesn’t have, though… is iPad Pro specific apps. I’m not talking about the creative side of the world. Things like the Adobe Creative Suite are easy to see in this space. I’m talking about other apps…

There are a few specific issues here that I want to touch on. I’ve been trying to work through this for a few days, so please bear with me. This isn’t something that is a huge get or anything for Apple or any other app developer. However, its going to require a bit of cooperation that currently doesn’t exist. It will need to happen if the iPad Pro is going to be the success that it can and needs to be for Apple to be successful in the enterprise.

But before I get into all of that mess, let’s talk apps. Apps are the key to the iPad Pro being a success in the enterprise. Without them, the iPad Pro remains nothing more, really than just a really big iPad, and nothing more.

Without apps, the iPad Pro is really nothing more than a really big iPad with a stylus that can now get lost. Without apps, the iPad Pro is really nothing more than a big iPad with a stylus that can now get lost AND with an over priced, cloth covered, keyboard cover.

But which apps? Really glad you asked…

Microsoft Office – Outlook, OneNote, Word, Excel and PowerPoint for iOS already exist. It might be nice if Microsoft came out with an iPad Pro specific version that was a bit more powerful, but even if they didn’t, the versions that we have will work; but what we have now should really be considered a baseline or the bare minimum of functionality. They work for any iDevice with any kind of keyboard. Differentiation should really be the mantra here (and keep that close to your thoughts – differentiation…).

CRM Services

Most CRM apps – like Salesforce and Microsoft CRM – are web apps. While those will definitely work on the iPad Pro via Safari or other iOS compatible browser, and are made the more powerful by the 128GB LTE version (because it has access to the web from anywhere where there’s a cell signal), a client based app with some kind of data capture and reporting capabilities (for running basic, client and/ or data specific reports) would be huge win on the iPad Pro platform.

With something like this on a tablet near you, you can manage cases, customer needs and concerns, sales and service requests, etc. With the right data on your machine and the right reporting engine, you can pull together detailed service analyses detailing parts needed or consumed within a specific quarter or on a specific device or machine model you suspect may have reached its end of life. The possibilities are endless with the right app – the right data and the right reporting engine can make all the difference when your trying to upsell service contracts to your top clients.

Microsoft Office and Related Tools

I’ve already talked a bit about Office and a more powerful iPad Pro only version. I’m not going to rehash that. Its fairly obvious. And speaking of Office, there are some enterprise level apps that are currently missing form the Apple side of the fence – Visio and Project are nowhere to be seen, and quite honestly, in order for any Apple hardware to be taken seriously in the enterprise and for them to be any thing else other than a second class enterprise citizen, Microsoft needs to pull together both Visio and Project for both OS X and iOS. While they’re at it, they could also bring some feature parity to OneNote for both OS X and iOS.

The one thing though that is missing from this is SharePoint.

SharePoint right now is a Windows PC only kinda thing. Microsoft doesn’t have any kind of SharePoint client for its own mobile platform (and who can blame them – they don’t have a true tablet and their mobile phone platform is a joke at less than a 3% world-wide market share, but… I digress), let alone one for Mac or Linux. However, if they came up with extensions that would allow Safari or Chrome (for Android) to access SharePoint sites on a company’s intranet.

From there, you could collaborate on Office based documents, share data, etc. In offices that make use of core Microsoft services, having access to SharePoint’s sharing and collaboration based services can make a huge difference to the productivity levels of its mobile management members who spend most of their work days moving from one conference room to another for one meeting to the next.

Networking and File System Utilities

Now… couple all THAT with VPN software, telnet clients and a way to mount local SMB file shares so you can browse and work with files while connected to a wireless network in either your office or while on the road through that VPN.

Your iPad just got a lot more professional looking.

In fact, its likely now more of a notebook replacement – or at least, notebook companion – than you thought it was just a few moments ago.

Now, let’s talk file system for just a second… The beauty of the iPad and nearly every other iDevice is that its light. Its fast. The OS doesn’t get bogged down by a bunch of resource hogging overhead that prevents you from doing what you want or need to do quickly.

This is partially due to the fact that iOS doesn’t work the way that your Mac does. I don’t know if everyone wants a full blown, user accessible, file system exposed. While it may solve some problems, its going to uncover others and create new ones.

The biggest problem with the lack of a file system is that users really can’t manage files locally. If you want to work with any of your data, you have to do it in the cloud, and then those apps that do it, don’t really allow you to organize or use your files the way you can on a desktop PC or notebook. In fact, only specific apps – like Pages, Numbers or Keynote – allow you to see what data you have, and then only those files that they can work with.

With the introduction of the iCloud Drive app in iOS 9.x, you now have a bit more control and access to your data in that cloud-based storage service, but its not the same as working with Finder on your Mac.

Apple needs to close the gap a bit, and then your data and files need to be accessible by any and all apps, not just those that are iCloud enabled. Think of this as iCloud Drive Sync Lite, or iCloud Drive Sync for iOS. I want and need to be able to access my data locally, when I’m offline, and then have the changes sync up.

Further, this lite file sync shouldn’t be limited to iCloud Drive, but should allow hooks for OneDrive and Google Drive. You should be able to get to your cloud based files no matter what file sync system you use. In order to help this happen, and to insure that its secure, its likely that the whole thing will need to be sandboxed. At least that way, if one of your files has a bug, the damage it can do is limited.

Engineering Utilities

I’m not going to go too deep here. However, there are some tools that for some specific vertical markets that are sorely needed.

A buddy of mine is a Cisco VoIP Engineer. He’s looking to the iPad Pro to help him do his job. Things like RTMT (Real Time Monitoring Tool) that allows VoIP engineers to view traffic passing over cable in real time. If there’s a problem with a router a connection or other item, this tool is going to help them narrow it down. Getting access to other corporate resources on the Cisco corporate network with Cisco AnyConnect VPN is also going to allow them to contact others with analytical information so problems can be solved and solutions put in place.

Yes. You’re right. This can be done with a Windows computer.

The need here is that a full size notebook is one more thing that they have to carry. Most Cisco VoIP engineers travel from client site to client site throughout the day. If they can get the same job done with a lighter, more compact tool than a Windows PC, they’re all over it.

The same can be said for other service techs that manage workstations, servers and other enterprise configurations like Active Directory and Azure servers. If you look at other vertical markets – Sales, medical and hospital, insurance…ANY kind of insurance – it all fits.

Support from Apple

So… what does Apple need to do? Well, that’s a really good question.

A lot of it relates to policy they’ve put in place to help them make money and other policy, but it comes down to a few different things.

Differentiation
Remember when I mentioned differentiation? Yeah. The iPad Pro is a different beast. The A9X processor is a desktop class processor. It can do a lot more than just play video, run an eBook reader or a web browser. It can crunch numbers and do complex graphic displays. Its great for games, but its also great for running presentations while on the go.

Its apps need to reflect its enhanced capabilities. The iPad Pro is more than just a big iPad. Its apps need to call out that difference, and need to do so loudly. The device is expensive. Apple needs to help users justify the cost.

The iPad Pro needs its own app classification. While it may run apps for any other iDevice, there should be some apps that run only on the iPad Pro – enhanced versions of MS Office for iOS, Visio for iOS, Project for iOS, etc.

On the creative side, there should be some drawing and graphic apps that contain iPad Pro only features and functions. One of the easiest ways to do that is to require the use of the Apple Pencil, for example. The point is that the apps that I use may run just fine on any other iPad out there, but should do something different… something special… on the iPad Pro. Users will pay a premium for this device. They need to feel as though they’re getting something for their premium dollar.

The other thing that Apple needs to do is develop a different software model for Professional apps. On the enterprise side, there are a number of apps out there that follow the old Shareware model where an app functions with full functionality for a set period of time after its installation. This gives users a chance to evaluate apps to see if they meet their expectations and needs. You can’t do this under the current App Store. Unfortunately, that needs to change on the enterprise side of the app world. We need to try before we buy, not buy before we try.

Apple’s Cut
To put it bluntly, Apple’s 30% cut might need to be reexamined here. Most enterprise apps are going to cost a heck of a lot more than $10 bucks. This works for Apple on the consumer side for a number of reasons. Mostly because when the App Store hit the market, it was the only thing of its kind. Developers don’t like it but don’t complain too loudly because they make the 30% up in volume.

You aren’t going to see that volume on the enterprise side of things. Not too many people use Project, Visio outside of a work situation. Regular folks won’t need Salesforce or Microsoft CRM. Apple’s going to have to figure out a way of getting their cut without gouging enterprise app developers. Enterprise app devs aren’t going to make the cut up on volume.

Apple may also need to reexamine its ban on subscriptions and in-app catalogs. Again, it works on the consumer side because devs can make up the cut on volume. Volume doesn’t really exist on the enterprise app side.

Conclusion

This seems pretty cut and dry to me. The iPad Pro, even with its new accessories – an electronic, rechargeable, pressure sensitive stylus and a native, device powered keyboard – at the end of the day is just a really big iPad with expensive (some may say overpriced) native accessories.

And they may be right…

If it wasn’t for the apps.

Apps, which ones come out and for which verticals, how they’re implemented and how broadly they appeal to both enterprise users and consumer users who want to do a little enterprise cross over, will be what makes or breaks the iPad Pro.

The iPad Pro needs things like CRM software, an enhanced and differentiated version of Microsoft Office (including Visio and Project) for the iPad Pro, if its going to have a chance at success. Its going to need specialized vertical apps that address very specific needs for Sales individuals, engineering and service individuals, insurance and medical professionals, etc.

More than that, app developers are going to need help from Apple in the form of incentives, and reworked or reimagined demo, beta and shareware app classifications in order to help sell enterprise apps that will undoubtedly cost a great deal more than a copy of Boom Beach or other popular game app.

Finally, Apple’s going to have to find a different way to get their cut of the App Pie. Charging 30% doesn’t sit well with consumer market app developers. The only reason why they haven’t left the App Store is due to volume. They know their going to get volume sales so they don’t complain, at least not too loudly. Volume sales shouldn’t be expected on the enterprise side, especially when you’re talking about vertical markets.

What do you think? Is the iPad Pro the ticket to Apple’s cut of the enterprise pie? Is it the apps more than any thing else with the iPad Pro that will make it a success or am I all wet behind the ears? Why don’t you sound off in the discussion area below and give me your thoughts on it all?

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