Apple and the way we live now

iPad Pro 9.7"
Apple's iPad Pro 9.7" version. (Image: Apple)

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6 October 2016 | 0

Niall Kitson portraitOn this week’s TechRadio we discuss the state of Apple five years on from the death of Steve Jobs. The short version goes that the company is a lot more profitable (worth $50 billion at the time of Jobs’ death versus $600 billion now) but a lot more boring. Apple Watch aside, the fear of a product flopping has created a more conservative company. Cupertino hasn’t lost any of its devoted fanbase but when it comes to design and performance there are plenty of less expensive alternatives to products like the groundbreaking MacBook Air and Mac Pro, which now seem dated. Under Tim Cook’s tenure we have seen a culture shift based on getting the most out of existing products, even if that means changing how we thinking about and use them.

Let’s take the humble iPad as an example. If reports from Japanese gadget blog Makotakara are correct then the next iPad you buy could be more than a hardware upgrade, it could be a device with an entirely new vision behind it. The clue is in the screen size.

According to the website, a new iPad Pro is coming in 2017, including two new form factors: a 10.1” to replace the current 9.7” model and a 7.9” version to replace the iPad mini 4. And so we officially enter the phase where tablets stop acting like bigger brothers to the smartphone (and phablet) and start eating into the notebook space.

I can’t help but feel this is a betrayal of what the iPad was meant to be: a content consumption device, a second screen for the TV, an e-reader, a media player, a diversion for the casual gamer. I remember its reveal in 2012 where Steve Jobs sold the concept by sitting in an arm chair and surfing the Web – more comfortable than a laptop, more powerful than a smartphone. However, if you were looking for a productivity tool, best look elsewhere. This had been the way of things until 2015 when Apple released the iPad Pro – a laptop replacement for creatives. That we’re going to see more Pro models in smaller form factors shows there probably is demand for more powerful tablets, or should that be a demand for lighter laptops?

As we know from research by market analysts Gartner and IDG, sales of tablets are going down, though not as drastically as for PCs. Consumers are adopting longer upgrade cycles as a result of price and better tech that can keep up with new software and apps for longer. A smaller Pro would cater to consumers looking for greater longevity but it’s hard for me to see the use of an expensive device with impressive graphics capabilities but only a small screen to enjoy them on.

In the meantime I await this month’s announcement of a new line of lean and mean MacBook Pro laptops with plenty of processor power, half the ports and no DVD drive. Some would call this innovation.

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