If Apple wants the iPad to start making serious inroads into the pro market, and I believe they do, then they are going to need to release even bigger iPads. That may sound crazy, but hear me out.
I don’t think this sounds crazy at all. I could see doing a lot of my work on a 20-inch iPad that remains on a desk in my home office. There are some questions when considering whether Apple will actually release such a beast, however.
Certainly, larger devices would make iPad an even better platform for many kinds of pros. A larger screen, more RAM, and even more storage would no doubt benefit all sorts of digital creators. Newer tools for pros similar to Apple Pencil could be developed specifically for artists of all sorts as well. Assuming these big iPads would carry a pro price tag, it would also help bring new innovations to market quicker, as price and scale would not be as big a consideration.
Counsell is right in suggesting larger iPads, paired with even more pro advances in iOS, would enable more pros to do the sorts of work they currently can only do on their Macs—or worse, are now doing on a Surface. There’s a reason a portion of the digital artist market is moving to Microsoft Surface products. I don’t think the exodus is as big a thing as some are making it out to be, but any artist switching to Microsoft is not a good thing for Apple.
And make no mistake; Apple needs to be leading this charge. Sitting back and waiting for the pro software to come to iOS hasn’t been working out as well as we’d all like. There is definitely pro software out there for iOS, but there’s room for plenty more. I think iOS 11 is a step in the right direction, but I’d also like to see Apple produce more of its own pro apps for iOS. We have GarageBand. We need Logic and MainStage. We have iMovie. We need Final Cut Pro. We have Playgrounds. We need Xcode. And that’s not going to happen without more RAM and storage space, which would be easier to accommodate in a $3,000 iPad. While we’re at it, we need plugin architecture for iOS. Messages and Maps extensions are one thing; we need all apps on iOS to be extendable. And, of course, conversations with pro software creators to get more apps built for iOS would be critical. The software is coming, but a little more incentive and evangelizing wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Clearly there’s a market for larger iPads, albeit a small one. The question for me is how does Apple in 2017 release a product that sells in the tens or hundreds of thousands— rather than the tens of millions—per quarter? iPhone has set expectations so high for Apple products that no matter Apple’s own projections, the press will immediately declare a “flop” any product that doesn’t meet that ridiculous iPhone sales standard. Just look at Apple Watch’s success, which nonetheless gets billed as a disaster on a regular basis.
And Watch sales would be massive compared to sales of a 20-inch iPad.
Still, if Apple wants to keep the pro market, they have to be willing to release products that are meant to be specialized flagship devices for a small niche of customers. iMac Pro and the recent commitment to a new Mac Pro demonstrate that Apple agrees. Whatever clever marking Phil Schiller’s team has to come up with to convince the press, it’s important for Apple to remain the leader in the pro space, and that can’t be done with consumer mass market machines.
Maybe that’s part of what the rumored “iPhone Pro” is all about. After all, if Apple can sell an iPhone that is designed to be niche, niche iPads shouldn’t be far behind.