Apple is Doing Something That Could Accidentally Torpedo the iPad Pro

| Particle Debris

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!

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Lee Dronick

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.

I suppose that Apple has an iOS 10 in the works that will open up a lot of features in the iPad Pro


I see things differently.  grin

1)  I see any tablet as a device that features nothing useless. It can feature (for example) a screen keyboard if you need to have one, it can connect to an external one if so preferred.
Besides, it can be used both in portrait orientation and in landscape. That is the tablet’s niche. You may want to compose a letter in landscape mode at a desk, you may want to reread it in portrait mode on a couch.
Oh yes, graphics will be great, but how about a spreadsheet? My 11” MacBook Air shows too small an area, my 15” MacBook Pro shows “enough”. But I often want to view spreadsheets (databases in disguise) in portrait mode. Perhaps show it to somebody next to me on a couch. iPad Pro, here I come! Can you imagine the difference between a tablet and a notebook in handing over?

2)  Poor Mac Pro. Still waiting for screens (or rather cables) to match its computing power. Poor users who queued up to order the thing despite ever longer delays. They must have been out of their minds. Or could they have a point that these derising reviewers don’t even recognize? A Mac Pro may be quite a number cruncher - and it seems obvious to me that not too many people are deeply engaged in heavy film processing
I could in fact imagine that the role of the Mac Pro is to prevent demanding users from not choosing OS X as their operating system at all, afraid of not having the heavy stuff in the ecosystem that they know their way in. Somewhat the opposite of the 16GB iPhone (or even iPod), set to lure users into the ecosystem. And that most power users and wannabes actually settle for the 5k iMac - the desktop on mobile electronics.
Isn’ the Mac mini to be felt more sorry for?

3)  I am among those who’d prefer an iPad Pro running OS X, making it an Apple Surface. But to run OS X and show decent performance, it would have required something like the Intel Core i5 CPU (not the hot i7). With room for air to flow, perhaps even a fan. Heavier. They must have considered it at Apple, have tried some prototypes, and in the end Tim Cook may have been right on deciding against it.

4)  We’ll see. I have a Surface Pro 3, my iPad Pro is on its way (apparently dedicated to me in China, flying to me in the Netherlands), I have the money ready for Google’s Pixel C.
(Huh? Spring already? I should finally have some sleep.)  wink

Mark Mitchell

Surely it’s not beyond the wit of Apple to say to the developers of enterprise software that they will help fund the initial investment cost in order to bring pro level software to the platform - we are talking peanuts in the big picture of Apples financial standing.  Make it happen Apple.


Basically the iPad Pro is hardware looking for an OS. iOS just is NOT taken seriously by anyone in graphics or music, anyone that wants to make money anyway.


Well put. iOS was designed for something the size of a phone, with a phone’s limitations. Even with the big improvements in iOS9, a regular iPad still chafes under the restrictions of iOS. When put on the iPP it’s just out of it’s element. No same app multitasking. An absurd amount of space between icons on the screen. The list goes on and on.


We are thinking of the Pro for our artistic children and their ravenous need to create.
Perhaps I am old school and remember what programs used to cost.
I have no problem paying 15, 20 or even more for a great app.

Heck I used to pay something close to $40 for old atari cartridges that were much less useful.

I think for dinky and mindless apps 99 cents or 2.99 is just fine. I can buy and try dozens. But when i know I want a really robust piece of software, I don’t have much trouble paying more.

For us… the Pro will likely serve nicely as a Cintiq analog with more robustness in other ways. Still have to check out the specs of the touch sensitivity, but I would expect the Pro would be minimally equal to the Cintiq at this stage in hardware evolution.


One more point related to putting pro apps in the app store that you didn’t mention in this article (but TMO has mentioned previously) is the 30% cut. 30% of $10 or less is small. 30% of $300 is huge. I wouldn’t want to sell a $300 pro app on the app store because it cuts into the profits too much. I don’t feel that Apple deserves that large of a chunk. Apple’s cut should have some upper limit or else some way of negotiating different percentages for certain categories or something.


The iPad is a musical powerhouse, and music continues to be a killer app for the iPad Pro - basically it’s a perfect sheet music notebook, and it has an incredible set of musical instruments available in the app store. For performing musicians, the iPad and iPad pro are incredible devices.

Some of my go-to synths include Animoog, Sunrizer, Cassini, Magellan, Thor, iMini, iSem, Nave, Laplace, and every single Korg app (notably iPolySix, Gadget, and Module.) There are tons of great drum machines as well. Every instrument is great on the pro because you have a larger control surface.

I also use the iPad for guitar effects - usually via Amplitube, but AmpKit, Bias and GarageBand are also good options.

The iPad rules as a groove box; some of my favorites include Korg Gadget, NanoStudio, ReBirth, Rhythm Studio, Tabletop, Xenon, Caustic, iKaossilator and Figure. And of course you can roll your own.

For on-the-go recording and mixing, the iPad may not have Logic/Reason/Live/ProTools/Reaper/etc., but you might be pleasantly surprised at what you can do with Multitrack DAW, Auria, Cubasis, Beatmaker 2, GarageBand, Studio.HD.

In short, iOS is incredible for musicians. You can also interoperate with desktop software, for example opening GarageBand projects in Logic, importing Cubasis projects into Cubase, or using iPad synths as plug-ins for your DAW via Music IO or other apps which send audio and MIDI over your USB/Lightning cable (this should be built into iOS, however.)


I also have to say: polyphonic expression in iPad synths like Animoog is fantastic. You can play on the multitouch surface or connect an external polyphonic aftertouch controller like the CME Xkey 37 or KMI QuNexus (or a larger poly aftertouch keyboard like a vintage Roland A-80, Ensoniq, or a VAX77 if you’re lucky enough to have one!) Some hardware synths like the Prophet ‘08 module will also accept poly aftertouch from Animoog or the Xkey, as will Logic’s ES2 soft synth.

Lee Dronick

Good point webjprgm. It would be good if Apple could arrange something like that, I much prefer buying in the App store than going to a developer’s website.


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