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The case for an iPad Pro

Gregg Keizer | Jan. 6, 2014
Apple will move upmarket to an iPad Pro tablet, perhaps this year, as it faces pressure from Android device makers searching for profits, an analyst said today.

There's evidence to support Singh's argument.

Not only has Apple refused to play the rush-to-the-bottom pricing model used by most PC makers — its new Mac Pro starts at $2,999 — but last year it priced the iPhone 5C considerably higher than most analysts claimed were necessary to compete with the flood of home-grown Android smartphones sold to China's consumers.

Instead, some argued, Apple used the iPhone 5C pricing, as well as the features of the flagship iPhone 5S, to reinforce its reputation as a luxury, aspirational brand that people are ready to pay extra to acquire.

If Apple does go upmarket with an iPad Pro-style tablet, it would be following in the footsteps of rival Microsoft, which has targeted its Surface Pro and second-generation Surface Pro 2 at the enterprise and professional market. Microsoft sells the least-expensive Surface Pro 2 for $899, with an additional $80 for the lowest-cost keyboard cover, for a minimum total of $979.

An iPad Pro might have a larger screen — rumors have focused on 12 inches, about the size of the display in the lowest-priced MacBook Air — perhaps ports for connecting external peripherals, maybe a keyboard-cover accessory to use with productivity software such as iWork, or if Microsoft eventually releases touch-based Office apps for iOS, for that enterprise-standard suite.

By going upmarket, as Singh suggested, Apple would also charge more for such a tablet to both separate it from the iPad Air (which starts at $499) and maintain its traditionally high margins. But even at $200 or $300 more than the current iPad Air, Apple could undercut the Surface Pro 2.

By comparison, Apple prices its entry-level 13-in. MacBook Pro with a Retina display $200 higher than a MacBook Air equipped with a same-sized screen, and $300 more than the least-expensive 11-in. MacBook Air.

Other factors have been cited that may make an iPad Pro possible, though not predicted. Many have pointed out, for instance, that Apple's move to 64-bit in its A7 system-on-a-chip (SoC) for the iPhone 5S and the newest iPads opens the window for more sophisticated apps.

But nothing is certain until Apple shows something on a launch presentation stage. Singh acknowledged that the Apple prediction business is littered with bets that never materialized.

"I know how product launch predictions usually turn out, so I wouldn't necessarily bank on it," he said.


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