iPad Pro conundrum

The iPad Pro was released last week, along with a whole bunch of cautiously positive reviews.

My impression from these reviews is that the hardware is solid but the software needs work. This includes tweaks required to iOS specifically for the iPad Pro as well as third-party software needing to take advantage of the larger screen.

Apple is a company that makes premium devices, and sells them for premium prices. The average selling price for generic computers is somewhere in the region of US$550 (I had links to back this up but lost them when my text editor crashed). Apple only sells one computer that is even close to that price level and Apple's average selling price for computers is about $1200. More than double the average for the market as a whole.

Until now, a tablet has usually been a computer with fewer input methods, reduced functionality and reduced performance when compared with a laptop or desktop. As a result of these compromises and restrictions I would normally expect a tablet to be cheaper than a computer. It is slower and less useful in many circumstances, although it does have the benefit of being more portable and touch-first.

The iPad Pro turns this usual calculus upside-down. The screen resolution is higher than on any of the portable Macs. The performance and even the size is comparable with many of the full-blown Macs. But so is the price.

The 128GB Wi-Fi iPad Pro comes in at $949, but if you want to add in the keyboard cover and the pencil then you’re looking at paying just over $1200. For a tablet. That’s the price of a premium laptop, not just a premium tablet.

With that sort of pricing strategy, for many buyers the iPad may become the computer, rather than just a device that sits between the phone and the computer in size.

At $500 for an iPad a consumer might reasonably buy both as laptop and an iPad. At $1000+ that same consumer might decide just to own an iPad Pro.

This move towards the iPad Pro as the only “desktop” device won’t necessarily happen quickly but might be more obvious after a couple of iterations over the next couple of years as it become more powerful and useful. A good take on this is Horace Dediu’s video review.

If I didn’t need to use Xcode and Final Cut Pro, I’d certainly be tempted to try and move full-time from a laptop to an iPad Pro.