Apple is Doing Something That Could Accidentally Torpedo the iPad Pro

Image credt: Apple

Apple is a company that can get set in its ways. That often stems from a set of values that dictate how things should forever be. However, while products and technologies change fast, sometimes Apple is its own worst enemy when it comes to updating practices. The iPad Pro might be one of those new products held back by old thinking.


Many of the iPad Pro reviews I've read suggest that the iPad Pro, being a pro-level product seems, in some ways, out of sync with iOS 9. My own feeling is that there is more capability in the hardware than iOS, evolved as it has for mobility, can fully exploit.

Several interesting things of note are happening. The iPad Pro is not as handy when it comes to carrying it with one hand. It's a portable device to be sure, but it also begs for a keyboard and a place of its own. Keyboards and pencils are part of that productivity equation.

But let's not fool ourselves that an iPad Pro with a keyboard and a pencil are all to be said about productivity. For example, developers have to be able to create professional level apps, and they need to exploit the hardware. All while turning a profit.

This week, I found a troublesome article by the amazing Lauren Goode (@LaurenGoode) at The Verge who went into some detail about the issues developers face when it comes to writing apps for the iPad Pro. "The iPad Pro has an App Store problem." It's long because it covers so much ground with developers, and that makes it great. To summarize:

  1. The iPad Pro's strength in hardware is tied to a still maturing mobile iOS.
  2. iPad customers have come to expect, thanks to the structure and economics of the App Store, cheap apps. If an app costs more than a few bucks, the customer becomes resistant. However, professional-level apps have a special characteristic. They help the customer, in turn, make money, and so the app tends to cost more.
  3. Developers can't offer free trials or issue paid upgrades. (I have had developers complain to me about that.)
  4. Unlike casual apps heretofore found in the App Store, pro-level apps often require a closer working relationship between the develper and the customer. The structure of the App Store prevents that.

Apple's Business Approach

Apple has tried, throughout its history, to develop the enterprise connection. In my own experience, that was mainly through the development of ground breaking products. On the other hand, that tedious, messy human process of working with business and government always conflicts with Apple's way of doing business. Namely, a brisk, relentless, crisp yet casual surge into the future that works against the kinds of loyal business relationships that can slow a company like Apple down.

Apple's business success has been precisely because its great mobility products have allowed the company to sidestep the hard work of conventional business relationships that are reliable and enduring. That philosophy is inherited from Steve Jobs and his take it or leave it strategy.

If Ms. Goode's observations are correct, and I think they are, Apple may have focused too much on the cool hardware of the iPad Pro, the jazz of Apple pencil, and the specter of increased productivity without putting many of the business related structures in place, in the App Store,  that propel a pro-level product. If anyone knows how to do this, it's Microsoft, despite relatively poor sales of the Surface Pro series for other resons.

It all this were an isolated instance, we could write it off as Apple's continued inexperience in enterprise circles. However, we're currently seeing additional evidence surface in another area, namely the Mac Pro.

The Mac Pro Problem

Endangered species?
Image credit: Apple

This Week, TMO's John Kheit revealed that the Apple emperor has no clothes when he called out Apple for mismanaging the design, development and pro-level support of the 2013 Mac Pro. See: " The ‘New’ Mac Pro Is a Failure." His article punctuates the idea that a company that builds products for the professional has to connect to, work with, and cater to the practical needs of its creative professionals. That's because those customers are in business to make money, and if the product they've hung their hat on ceases to allow that, there is a predicable sequence: annoyance, complaints, feelings of betrayal, then product abandonment.

The pro-level stumble here is further accentuated by Apple's phenomenally obtuse handling of its only branded  display suitable for the Mac Pro: the 5+ year old 27-inch Thunderbolt display. It is beyond obsolete; it's a corporate embarrassment. Modern 4K displays from other companies, like this one, make one wonder why Apple can't develop, nurture, celebrate and support its business customers in customary ways. No. There always has to be a crisis of faith in Apple.

Back to iOS Developers. Ms. Goode's article goes on to connect deeply to developers and convincingly points out that pro-level apps can't be, in my words, written by teenagers living in their mom's basement. The result is that some mid-size developers are holding off in the conversion to pro-level versions of their apps to see what iPad Pro sales look like. That's a Catch-22 Apple can't afford.

Of course, the ultimate hope here is that the iPad Pro doesn't end up neglected like the Mac Pro: a failed experiment, seemingly as of this date, written off and rationalized as a bad idea when, in fact, the Apple's own philosophy and practices failed to adapt to the potential of the glorious hardware it created.


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the U.S., and that makes for a short work week. My folder of news debris is not very full. So this week's Particle Debris shall end with just the editorial above. Happy Turkey day!