Apple filled out its iPad lineup on Monday. As expected, the company announced a new 9.7-inch iPad Pro. The new model doesn't replace the year-and-a-half-old iPad Air 2, despite having pretty much the same form factor. Instead it strikes a middle ground between the size of the iPad Air 2 and the performance of its 12.9-inch sibling released last fall. It also strikes a middle ground in terms of price, coming in at $200 more than the iPad Air 2 and $200 less than the larger iPad Pro.
Apple also bumped up the storage options for both iPad Pro models, for the first time offering a 256GB storage option on both. The new available storage tiers include 32GB, 128GB and 256GB.
Overall, this rounds out the iPad lineup with a range of three form factors (12.9-inch, 9.7-inch and 8-inch) at broad range of price points starting with the iPad mini 2 with 16GB of storage at $269 all the way to the 256GB, 12.9-inch iPad Pro with cellular connectivity at $1,229. With that range, Apple has really diversified the iPad from its one-size-fits-all beginnings six years ago, to a product line that hits a very wide swath of demographics, user needs and price points.
Apple hypes the iPad Pro as a workplace PC replacement
One of the common threads throughout the new iPad Pro's introduction was the idea that it could easily serve as a replacement for aging PCs. Indeed Apple's Phil Schiller was quick to point out that there are over 600 million PCs in use that are more than five years old, and he sought to position the iPad Pro models as replacements for these aging PCs. He also noted that a majority of people who have been adopting the larger iPad Pro are coming from a Windows PC. (It’s worth noting that one can use both a PC and iPad Pro at the same time — it isn’t an either/or proposition.)
This has been a major theme in Apple's marketing of the iPad Pro since the larger model launched last year. It's certainly true that the device offers desktop-caliber performance, and an excellent screen, and can function as a de facto laptop in the same way as can Microsoft's Surface Pro.
But whether the iPad Pro, large or small, is the right business or professional computing solutions depends on a range of factors: The nature of a company's business, the specific job roles of employees, the need to run dedicated Windows apps, the desire of users and managers to select the best solutions for their needs (an increasing factor in IT decision making), and the infrastructure in place to support mobile devices.
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