As I have said many times before, I don’t like the “Pro” naming scheme. Specifications of a device are not what is professional. The people that use them are the professionals. And they can use any number of things to get their jobs done. For many people that is an iPad Pro. For others, it is a smartphone, or a $200 Chromebook, or a $2,000 MacBook Pro.
That said, Apple does not take marketing advice from me. So they use the word “Pro” in a way that I don’t. So I will try to consider the way they use it. When looking at the iPad Pro the way Apple insists that I do, I must agree with all the critics. It is not a “Pro” device, and likely will not be for a long time to come. Here’s why:
Wheelhouses of Pros, Thy Name Is Edge-case
Those who suggest that the iPad Pro can do 90% of what most people want to do with a computer are not really understanding the implication of their suggestion. 90% of the people don’t buy pro machines to do pro work. So when we are talking about a pro machine, we have already eliminated 90% of the people. The only people we are considering are the 10%.
Professionals are edge-cases. They are the oddballs who need specific things that most people don’t. Their work requires them to have specialized knowledge, use specialized jargon, and take advantage of the power and uniqueness of specialized tools. Even they don’t need those tools all the time. But they could not be proficient at their jobs without them.
Not many besides artists need $100 pencils. Only videographers at a certain level need $600 EGPUs. Only a handful can take advantage of the power of an Intel Core i9. But the ones who need these things really need them. They are edge-cases, pros, the 10%. They are ideally the people who buy machines marketed to professionals.
If the biggest knock against the iPad Pro is that it can’t handle the edge-case scenarios, then it cannot be considered a pro machine as we typically use the word. A pro machine is purpose-built for the edge-cases. Here are some of the 10% uses expected from such a machine:
- An unrestricted web browser for dealing with non-standard CMS backends
- The ability to import, export, and order files not created on the device
- Background audio for recording
- Manipulate text and other input with a high degree of accuracy
- Compatibility with a large number of third-party peripherals
- Availability of a wide variety of professional applications and experiences
- Ability to fit into known professional workflows of companies and tasks
There is no question that the iPad Pro is the best, most premium iPad experience ever crafted. But it does not do well on this, or any other list of edge-cases. I contend that the compatibility with edge-case scenarios is exactly what makes a machine a “pro” machine.
Not for the Rest of Us
The Mac is the computer for the rest of us. The Mac Pro is not. The MacBook Air is the laptop for the rest of us. The MacBook Pro is not. The iPad is the tablet for the rest of us. The iPad Pro is not.
I was on board when people were describing the iPad as a computer for the masses. I don’t think I am on board with thinking of the iPad Pro in the same way. It is not the tablet for the rest of us. It is a specialized and expensive tool for some of us, the few of us. This is true in the same way that a troop carrier is not an SUV for the average family. It is specialized, expensive, and for the few, not the many.
For this reason, I believe Apple is missing the opportunity to really differentiate the iPad Pro and give it features that befit its mission as a pro device. They should be filling it with edge-case features to fulfill edge-case scenarios for the 10% who consider themselves professionals in need of professional equipment.
I don’t just want to see the iPad with its own operating system. I want to see the iPad Pro with its own OS. It should be able to do things that no other machine can do. This is the device Apple should be experimenting with. It should have an OLED strip on the keyboard, a flip out tracking surface, and file import options that make Mac users envious.
Apple should be doing for other professions what they are doing for graphic artists. Yes, the Pencil is fantastic. But what about special keyboards for photo editors, film makers, music producers, writers who may need to adjust the brightness of volume every now and then? There are plenty of other things Apple could do for people from other professions using the iPad Pro as the base-station for the pro accessory they need the most.
Apple has not made a professional iPad. They have made a premium iPad for the masses. That is not exactly the center of the target.
That said, as a professional, I still find the iPad Pro to be one of my favorite machines. I am using it right now. And I do have other options. There are places in my life where it fits more perfectly than anything else I have. It is also the device I want to use the most. I love it. And I can’t imagine being without an iPad.
But when it comes time to do some of those edge-case tasks that are a part of my professional jam, I will be reaching for something else. While I wrote the words to this post on the couch, on a bus and in a mall using the iPad Pro, I will need to finish the boring bits on a more traditional tool that can handle edge-cases to get this published.
That means that for me, and an awful lot of professionals, the iPad, pro or otherwise, will be relegated to companion device status. It cannot be my only mobile since I sometimes need to complete, not just start projects on the go. It certainly can’t be my only desktop.
So until Apple embraces the 10% with their edge-case needs, they should stop calling it the iPad Pro, and start calling it the iPad Premium.