The iPad Pro: a Tablet for Business Users

Apple's going after mobile professionals with its latest iPad

The iPad Pro with Smart Keyboard
The iPad Pro with Smart Keyboard. Melanie Pinola

Apple wants you to do work on your tablet--specifically on the recently announced iPad Pro. A larger version of the iPad Air 2, the Pro is designed for multitasking (new in iOS 9and it includes the Apple Pencil (i.e., a stylus for writing or drawing on the screen). Could the iPad Pro replace your laptop? ~ September 22, 2015

With its super-sized 12.9-inch display (with 2732 by 2048 resolution), the iPad Pro is certainly large enough to replace many laptops.

For comparison, it's got 78% more display room than the iPad Air 2. And at 1.57 pounds it's definitely lighter than most laptops. Larger and lighter: Two words we like to hear when we're talking about mobile business-oriented devices. When the original iPad came out, I was skeptical it could be used for work (or at least used well), but productivity apps made the lack of a hardware keyboard on the tablet less of a big deal. Third-party keyboards filled in the rest of the void for those of us who aren't productive tapping on the real-estate-wasting on-screen keyboard. 

Proving the iPad Pro is for business, though, Apple has created its own keyboard accessory for the big tablet: A Smart Keyboard ($169) that looks quite like the turn-a-tablet-into-a-PC keyboard Microsoft Surface offers. (Pardon my cynicism for a moment, but when Apple headlines its Surface-esque keyboard with "The only thing we didn't reinvent was the alphabet" I had to chuckle at the hyperbole.)

Another thing the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro share in common: a stylus--or pen as Microsoft calls it or Pencil as Apple calls it. Whatever, it's a stick that you use to draw or write on the screen, and  something that Apple was long not expected to ever add to its iPad lineup, in large part thanks to Steve Jobs' open disdain for the stylus.

(Long before the Surface came out, I wondered if the stylus could make a comeback.) It seems like Apple has changed its mind on the usefulness of this optional $99 accessory. Here's their description, which I and other long-time tablet PC users have often championed:

When using iPad Pro, there may be moments when you want even greater precision. So we painstakingly designed Apple Pencil to expand on the versatility of Multi-Touch. And while the technology inside is unlike anything we’ve ever engineered, picking up Apple Pencil for the first time feels instantly familiar. It lets you make any number of effects, right down to a single pixel, giving you more creative freedom than ever before. 

The iPad Pro has an optional hardware full-sized keyboard, a large screen with great resolution, the ability to multi-task, and a stylus. It lacks the docking station and built-in support for a mouse, however, that some users might want in a laptop replacement. 

The biggest difference here, though, between the iPad Pro and tablets that run Windows is the iPad runs only iOS mobile apps. The Surface Pro, which the iPad Pro is most alike, runs both tablet-oriented touch-friendly apps and Windows desktop ones.

Many companies use legacy desktop programs that aren't suitable in tablet mode, so the Surface Pro's combination of powerful desktop processors and support for any Windows app makes it more suitable for enterprise.

For many non-enterprise users, the iPad Pro might be enough, though, for most kinds of work--checking email, making documents and spreadsheets (whether in Google Docs or Microsoft Office mobile apps), and browsing the web. The iPad Pro is plenty capable (just like the previous iPads were). With the additional keyboard and stylus, larger display, and the new more powerful A9X chip (1.8 times more powerful than the iPad Air 2), it's even more suitable for true productivity. 

It comes at a price, though. With storage of 128 GB (recommended over the 32 GB $799 option), the iPad Pro costs $949. Prices are higher if you want LTE or 4G connectivity, and the $169 and $99 prices for the keyboard and stylus, respectively, are not included.

The iPad Pro could be a great laptop replacement--but it depends on the kinds of apps you need to run often.