Preliminary Thoughts on the iPad Pro: A High School Student’s Perspective

Thursday, 12 November 2015

The reviews are out, and the iPad Pro is now shipping. We’ve seen the 6,000-word long review from MacStories (as we’ve come to expect, really). We’ve seen interviews with Apple executives about the new device. We’ve also seen PC enthusiasts scoff at the idea of a tablet (however powerful) replacing the long-beloved laptop. It’s clear that the iPad Pro is a controversial device. To many, it’s Apple simply making a bigger iPad. To others, it shows a clear path of where mobile computing is gravitating toward. In many ways, the expansion of mobile computing is now headed straight at two key markets: enterprise, and creatives.

Apple is branching out into business. Last year, they partnered with IBM in an interesting partnership that saw Apple become much more relevant in the enterprise sector. With the iPad Pro, Apple is taking full aim at business professionals. When the iPad first came out, many tried it out as their only computing device. That was a failed experience for these people. Apple’s software wasn’t developed enough to take advantage of the extra screen real estate. The technology and the interface wasn’t yet there to introduce new ways of interacting with mobile devices. Now, with the release of iOS 9 this fall (the most important update to iOS for the iPad since its invention), combined with the power and size of the iPad Pro, Apple is reintroducing the tablet as a PC alternative. And a very strong one, at that. With more power than ever, bundled with the world’s most advanced operating system, it’s easy to see why.

Apple also made a big deal to attract creatives too. Even their marketing strategy seems to point toward artists and designers. Their main iPad Pro page calls the device a “canvas”. Apps shown off include GarageBand, iMovie, UMake, and the many Adobe apps that now support iPad Pro. The Pencil is shown on their website exclusively for sketching and other artistic indulges, even neglecting PDF annotations that business professionals might use it for. The 12.9” screen is absolutely gorgeous and I’d love to doodle on that thing. I’m not so sure about whether I’d like to create UI design mockups or do WordPress development in Coda yet, but I’m sure there’s some friction to overcome to fully transition over from a desktop environment over to this lovely aluminum slab.

There is, I think, another category of potential customers Apple should be targeting (but haven’t), and that’s education. I study in a relatively high-end high school for international students in Hong Kong, and in place currently exists a 1:1 personal laptop deployment program. The first three years of high school education focuses on a core curriculum which doesn’t involve a lot of high tech. Most of my pre-GCSE days were spent in apps that exist on iOS today: Google Drive, Microsoft’s Office Suite and a web browser made up 90% of our technology usage in class. Once you go up a few years, classes become more specialized, as electives such as Media Studies (which involves a practical film-making aspect) and Textiles are thrown in the mix. These classes, as you can imagine, involves the usage of more sophisticated programs, but for the majority of students, a powerful tablet like the iPad Pro is sufficient for the demands of a rigorous high school curriculum1. Features such as Slide Over and Split View bring basic window management that existed on OS X and other desktop operating systems to iOS, which is the highest level of complexity in an operating system most students require to be comfortable. Since the majority of classes in the higher years only require a web browser and an office productivity suite2, the iPad Pro looks like a promising candidate for the future of classroom computing.

  1. Not for me, though. For my needs, which involve use of professional video-editing software (no, iMovie does not cut it), I still need a professional laptop. I write this on a top-of-the-line 15” MacBook Pro that often runs the Adobe CC suite and Xcode. 
  2. With the exception of the occasional launch of iMovie. 

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