If there is a gadget that shows us the future of Apple's strategy, then it is the iPad Pro. Readers of tea leaves had suggested that a larger iPad was on the way after WWDC 2015, and that rumour turned out to be true. Combine a beautiful high-resolution display with raw processing power and you might just have finally witnessed a device that could one day replace laptops.
The changes in iOS 9 - true multitasking, split screen, and picture-in-picture mode - had hinted that the iPad was finally ready to become more than just a bigger iPhone. The iPad Pro shows what Apple had been planning all along.
The most important addition to justify the iPad's 'Pro' moniker is raw power. Apple claimed that the new A9X chip in the iPad Pro is faster than up to 80 percent of portable PCs that shipped in the past one year. Many of these portable PCs can't open 10 tabs in a browser without freezing, but they cost a lot less the the iPad Pro, which makes this an unfair comparison. Even then, this is a landmark for the iPad Pro as Apple is a relatively new entrant to the chip-making business.
The A9X chip is nearly twice as fast as the A8X inside last year's iPad Air 2, which is also a big achievement. With A9X and 4GB RAM, Apple is nearing the point where the iPad Pro can seriously be considered a MacBook Air replacement. The iPad Pro already has a better display, it is a lot lighter than the MacBook Air, and comes with a battery that lasts almost as long. Add to this the four speakers that will make watching films enjoyable, and we have a device that will appeal to many.
The only thing missing is the keyboard. Apple covered that too with the Smart Keyboard. Apple has added a new Smart Connector to the iPad Pro, which lets the keyboard draw power from and exchange data with the iPad Pro. This does away with clunky Bluetooth keyboards that need to be charged separately and paired with the iPad. Apple has always avoided adding connectors to iOS devices and this is a departure from that approach. Separating the keyboard does allow the company to market the iPad Pro as a device that starts at $799 (roughly Rs. 53,000). Most people would want to buy the $169 (roughly Rs. 11,200) Smart Keyboard that also acts as a case for the iPad Pro.
Another interesting accessory is the Apple Pencil. Apple isn't using it as a replacement for touching the screen; rather, the Pencil is a tool that only some people will use. The Apple Pencil is perhaps the best drawing accessory you can get for the iPad Pro, which might appeal to artists and designers.
Seasoned PC users will still feel the lack of a filesystem on iOS is a deal-breaker. This is one reason why the iPad Pro can't be the perfect laptop replacement for everyone. Even with share sheets and improved communication between apps, iOS still lacks some of the flexibility that power users crave for. It remains to be seen if iOS will ever reach that stage, but in spite of these limitations, it remains a perfectly capable desktop OS replacement for many people.
Do you need a PC to get work done anymore? Browsing the Internet, playing games, using multiple apps at once - such as taking notes while watching a video - are all easy tasks on the iPad Pro. Even moving around in documents is now much easier on the iPad thanks to the trackpad mode built into the default keyboard app.
The app ecosystem on iOS has evolved to a point where there is an app for almost everything - with a few exceptions (sorry, torrent downloaders). Most people's computer usage involves switching from one app to another. The features introduced by iOS 9 - true multitasking, SlideOver, Picture-in-Picture mode - make the iPad a device far more capable of replacing a laptop. Buying the iPad Pro with the Smart Keyboard sounds like a better idea than buying a PC.
Whether you are a writer, film lover, or a busy executive, the iPad Pro can be a great device for you. Spending over $799 on a tablet sounds like a bad idea, but is the iPad Pro just a tablet anymore? I don't think so.