Market Insight

Apple recommits to tablet market with iPad Pro

September 10, 2015  | Subscribers Only

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iPad Pro features:

- Largest iPad screen to date, at 12.9-inches a full 3-inches larger than the iPad Air 2
- Retina performance, 5.6 million pixels, more than the MacBook Retina Pro
- New 64 –bit A9X System on Chip (SoC), faster than 80% of current portable PCs
- Faster graphics than 90% of portable PCs
- New 4 speaker audio system with 3X the volume of the iPad Air 2, reorients with rotation
- New Apple Pencil and full size, Smart Keyboard expand input options
- iPad Pro, Apple Pencil, and Smart Keyboard go on sale in November of 2015

Apple also announced:

- New iPad mini 4, with performance to match the iPad Air 2
- No changes to iPad Air 2 in this announcement.

Our analysis

In a move that echoes eerily of the original iPad launch, which targeted and quickly decimated the netbook market, Apple is going head to head with the full, notebook PC with its latest offering, the iPad Pro.

Rather than relegating the tablet to secondary status, Apple made it clear today that the iPad is still their “vision of the future of personal computing.” Faster and more agile than the majority of notebooks offered by Apple’s competitors, the iPad Pro also boasts higher resolution than most of those products. Keyboard and stylus options aside, the iPad design has touch at its center, with apps and features styled to be easily manipulated with the press of a finger.

Improvements to the soft keyboard through iOS 9, including case mode keys, Quick type enhancements (cut, copy, paste), and the 2 finger swipe, coupled with the full size, soft keyboard possible with the larger iPad Pro make the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard options “nice to have’ additions, rather than a necessity.

While many of the product enhancements reflect input from Enterprise customers, IHS expects consumers will play a large role in demand for the iPad Pro. By incorporating a Retina display, Apple provides clear product differentiation between the new iPad Pro and the current MacBook Air models. On front of screen performance, the iPad Pro will easily outperform the MacBook Airs, an important, in your face distinction for users as they grapple with the product choice. With a growing number of users turning to tablets and notebooks as their primary video viewing screen, display performance is key.

The inclusion of four speakers is also a clear nod to the consumer segment, providing a long overdue improvement in audio performance. Apple makes it easy for app developers as well, as the landscape height of the iPad Pro is equivalent to the portrait height of the iPad Air 2 so the size transition is seamless.

The Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard bring the ease of a full PC, with the flexibility of a mobile design. Priced at $99 the Apple Pencil is one of the pricier stylus options on the market, but its built-in, digitizer intelligence also makes it a more powerful tool than many of the dumb stylus alternatives that abound in the market. And while the Smart Keyboard, at $169, is considerably more expensive than many third party alternatives, the Apple design choices, from covering to stand support, help justify the premium pricing.

Demand for tablets overall, and the iPad in particular has slowed in the past year, with iPad shipments down YoY over the past six quarters. IHS expects overall iPad shipments to reach 51 million units in 2015, a 19% drop from 2014 activity. The iPad Pro, with its higher price point will help to drive a healthy uptick in the average price for iPad’s however and a corresponding revenue kick. Watch for improved iPad numbers in 2016 as supply of the iPad Pro improves and a healthy segment of the 200 million installed iPad users line up for a product refresh.

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