20 July 2019
Attendees try out the new iPad Pro during an Apple launch event in New York on October 30. Photo: Reuters
Attendees try out the new iPad Pro during an Apple launch event in New York on October 30. Photo: Reuters

Will Apple iPad Pro replace the Macbook series?

Apple unveiled revamped versions of some gadgets at an event in New York City on Tuesday. The tech giant took the lid off a new line of iPad pros and also announced a refresh for its ten-year old Macbook Air laptop. Both devices target people who need to work on the go, but what has become clear is that the company is focusing much more on the iPad Pro and making it a true PC replacement.

From the sales perspective, it is easy to figure out why Apple would want to places its bets on the iPad rather than Macbook. In the quarter ended June, Apple shipped 11.5 million units of iPad, while Mac shipments amounted to only 3.72 million units. The statistics show that consumers are increasingly shunning laptop computers in favor of tablets which can now do almost everything that the desktops or laptops can.

Responding to the market trends, Apple updated its iPad models in March and October this year to meet different needs of customers. The iPad launched in March was a “budget” model targeted at students who can’t afford expensive devices, while the new iPad Pro is aimed at professional users and gadget geeks.

Apple has not hidden its ambition to make iPad Pro a computer rather than just a tablet for entertainment or web browsing. The new iPad Pro comes with a detachable keyboard and Apple Pencil which make the device more akin to a personal computer. And company executives spent a lot of time to demonstrate how iPad Pro can perform just like a personal computer.

The two new iPad models — one bearing a 11-inch display and the other 12.9-inch screen — have a new design featuring rounded corners, thinner bezels and a slightly slimmer profile, as tech news website cnet noted. The home button has been done away with, with Face ID authentication technology introduced for unlocking the device as in the iPhone X gadgets

Another noteworthy move by Apple is the adoption of USB-C port, which marks the end of the Lightning Connector in the iPad lineup. A USB-C connector port could open up the device to more third-party accessories. Users will also be able to charge their iPhone using the iPad Pro.

The USB-C port can be used not just for charging fast, it will also allow the iPad easier linkage to monitors, cameras and other gear. It is part of efforts to make the iPad Pro into a real personal computer, serving various functions.

“A high-performance computer deserves a high-performance connector. On these new iPad Pros, we’re moving to USB-C,” an Apple executive told the audience at the launch event on Tuesday.

The iPad Pro is powered by A12 X system-on-chip, making it the first device to use such a new chip within the Apple ecosystem.

Many people who stick with laptops say they seek stronger processing power, which is crucial for running apps such as games and graphic design software. Apple used several key applications, including full versions of Photoshop, Autocad, and NBA 2K games, to demonstrate the A12X power and prove that the device can hold up well against laptop computers.

Still, convincing the general public to shed their established belief that a laptop computer is always more powerful than a tablet won’t be easy. Apple has more work to do in terms of marketing and educational campaigns.

The US tech behemoth is trying to convince its loyal fans that iPad Pro represents the future of mobile computing rather than a slim laptop. The successful launch of an iPad version of Photoshop marks a key development that should help Apple migrate some loyal fans from Mac to iPad Pro.

In addition, the combination of the touch screen iPad Pro and Apple Pencil should enable users do more work than on a traditional laptop, especially when it comes to tasks involving design and art. 

As Apple touts the mobile computing experience on iPad Pro, the launch of a new MacBook Air could be just a symbolic move for the firm to commemorate its founder Steve Jobs. The late Apple boss is remembered for his “one more thing” line on stage a decade ago when he took out a MacBook Air from a manila envelope, in showmanship that became part of the Apple folklore. 

The MacBook Air with 13-inch screen looks like MacBook Pro with a Retina display and fingerprint sensor, which makes MacBook Air no longer an entry level product. The price is also increased to close to 30 percent above the previous version.

Some critics have said the new MacBook Air isn’t value for money as the processor used is not that fast compared with other laptop products, but still comes at a premium price. Also, the product may cause confusion in the market vis-a-vis the MacBook, a 12-inch screen laptop, with regard to positioning.

The new device may face keen competition from other laptop products that have better hardware specifications. But Apple clearly wants to use MacBook Air to lure first time Mac users from their iOS devices. This then raises the question: won’t such strategy be in conflict with the firm’s effort to promote iPad Pro as a laptop replacement?

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EJ Insight writer

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