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Apple’s 2020 iPad Pro

Is it really the next computer for pros?

If you’re anything like me, it’s been many days in quarantine and your kids stole your iPad a few weeks ago. So let’s take a look Apple’s new iPad Pro and what makes it so new.

Since the original announcement of the iPad over 10 years ago, the iPad has typically been considered the fourth screen device.

Your TV was the 1st screen, your computer was the second, the third was the mobile phone. With this release of the iPad pro, Apple is trying to change the narrative. Apple released two videos –
“Your next computer is not a computer” and “How to correctly use a computer”

In both videos, Apple is clearly trying to make the iPad your second screen taking the place of the computer and they are starting by targetting Pro’s with the iPad Pro. But Why would Apple do that?

If you look at Apple’s financials, over the last year you can see that revenue went down for Mac and iPhone business. However, iPad was up 17%. Apple would love for you to buy an iPad, pair it with some Airpods or Beats, and buy plenty of accessories like keyboards, apple pencils, and dongles.

Apple has been great at hardware advances and it’s no surprise that the display, camera, and performance are getting better and better. The introduction of Lidar is a surprise but this seems to be an extension of what Apple’s been doing with the Facetime camera.

Lidar stands for LIght Detection And Ranging. It sends light beams and then captures the reflection to figure out the range and spacial orientation. It’s used by the Mars Rover, some self-driving cars and now the iPad. It’s being used to improve the Augmented Reality experiences.

In terms of AR, I think there are two interesting areas to explore. The first is gaming. We’ve seen a lot of AR-enhanced games and while they are fun for a few minutes, apart from Pokemon go, few have had lasting value. With better cameras, these games will continue to improve. These technologies set the stage for AR glasses that Apple is rumored to be working on.

The second area in AR is how it’s being used professionally and this is where the iPad Pro may really shine in terms of its technology.

Several years ago Google had introduced AR into it’s larger tablets and Facebook’s Oculus has been pushing into this space. The new iPad’s Lidar is likely to find fans in architecture, space planning, and interior design and Apple’s videos are showing this future.

I know a number of folks who have tried to move to the iPad as their primary computer over the years with many issues, but Apple is systematically working on removing their objections.

Certain types of editing workflows are just easier with your hands on the keyboard and trackpad so Apple is introducing what can only be described as a variation of the traditional mouse and pointer user experience.

The user experience of the trackpad interface is particularly interesting. When not in use the pointer disappears and when it is in use the pointer snaps to controls as you get close. As you hover over text, spreadsheets or other controls the pointer shows context. Apple is even taking advantage of Fitts’s law to make sure that edge gestures like control-center or task switching is particularly easy. The full-size keyboard also removes many of the objections for typing longer documents on the iPad.

The other main objection for using the iPad as a computer is the lack of pro-level applications. Apple has been chipping away at this problem and some tools such as Adobe Photoshop and other pro-level tools have started to be available, however, even Apple’s own pro-level tools such as Final Cut Pro, Motion, and Xcode haven’t yet gotten their 1st generation iPad versions, making it hard to convince both Pros and larger software companies.

The iPad is looking like a great computer alternative but, it’s unlikely to replace your computer if you’re a true pro. Pros in audio, video, photography, architecture and engineering are likely to need tools and applications that aren’t yet available on the iPad Pro.

Apple is making great progress on a technology called “Mac Catalyst” that is allowing developers to share more code between their iPad, iPhone and Mac apps and that will also help.

So if you’re a Pro the new screen, keyboard, performance, and Lidar enhanced camera can certainly come in handy, but what if you’re not a Pro?

For non-pros, this can absolutely be a computer replacement. Web-browsing, document editing, portability, is a great option. The only potential downside is the price. When comparing the new iPad Pro with the new 13″ Macbook Air the two are almost the exact same price. If you configure both with 245GB and keyboard the iPad Pro is $84 more expensive.

So is the iPad Pro a computer replacement? Probably not for the true pros, it’s still a fourth screen for most but I do think the format for a tablet/slate computer is likely to become the second screen of the future.

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