​Apple's new iPad Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac mini: Can features, specs retain business momentum?

Apple's iPad Pro refresh features new specifications and a slightly new design, but the real purpose is to keep the company's massive enterprise flywheel going.

Apple's launch of the new iPad Pro and MacBook Air was about giving its customer base an overdue update consisting of new features. But the side effect of adding more pro apps to the iPad Pro and tools like Touch ID on the MacBook Air is driving enterprise adoption.

The company tipped features that would be interesting to the enterprise early in its event in Brooklyn. Like Apple's previous enterprise efforts, corporate use cases aren't directly mentioned, but equate to strong hints. If anything, Apple created a corporate pricing bake-off -- with IT managers left to figure out whether the iPad Pro is a better value than the MacBook Air.

The iPad Pro starts at $799 and is available Nov. 7. As for storage, there are 64GB, 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB versions. The iPad Pro starts at $799 for the 11 inch. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro starts at $999. The 10.5-inch older iPad Pro will start at $649.What Apple has really done is set up the decision pitting the MacBook Air, which starts at $1,199, against the iPad Pro.

Here is the breakdown of all the Apple launches and how they apply to business.

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MacBook Air (2018)

For starters, the new MacBook Air has a big track pad, individual backlights behind the butterfly style keyboard, no bezels, and the T2 security chip. The bezel-free MacBook Air also gets a Retina display.

CNET: Apple October iPad Pro event live blog | Apple debuts upgraded MacBook Air with Retina Display

These features for the MacBook Air were largely touted for students and consumers, but rest assured, many of these devices will be in the workplace via bring-your-own-device plans. "MacBook Air truly embraced the notion that less, indeed, could be more. And it redefined the modern notebook in the process," said Apple CEO Tim Cook. Indeed, MacBook Airs are all over the workplace.

The MacBook Air price tag also speaks to businesses. The MacBook Air will start at $1,199. That price is well above the predecessor and may speak more to small businesses that may take a deduction on their taxes for equipment.

    MacBook Air (2018) specs:

    • 15.6mm thick or 10 percent thinner than the previous MacBook Air.
    • Intel 8th-gen dual core CPU.
    • Up to 1.5TB SSD.
    • Up to 16GB memory.
    • Two USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports that will handle power, USB, Thunderbolt, HDMI, VGI and DisplayPort (yes, you'll need a few dongles).
    • 100-percent recycled aluminum frame.
    • 2.7 pounds.

    While the MacBook Air isn't designed to be the corporate workhorse that MacBook Pros are, there's enough in the laptop to spur business interest.

    The Mac mini will also inspire hobbyists as well as small businesses.

    Also: Apple 15-inch MacBook Pro (2018): Impressive performance at a premium price | Apple's surprise MacBook Pro update further strains its relationship with pros

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    iPad Pro (2018)

    The competition for the MacBook price-wise may be completely internal. The iPad Pro may be that MacBook Air competitor.

    Apple's iPad Pro is more about ensuring its iOS ecosystem continues to be the go-to mobile platform for business.

    Cook set up the MacBook vs. iPad competition when he noted that Apple has sold more iPads in the last year than the entire notebook lineup of all the big manufacturers. Apple has sold 400 million iPads so far, said Cook.

    The iPad Pro is designed to deliver the premium experience and top specs. In other words, iPad Pro is for enterprises and creative pros. Which employees get a notebook or iPad Pro remains to be seen. "It's going to push what you can do on iPad or any computer even further," said Cook.

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    iPad Pro (2018) specs:

    • The home button is gone.
    • Bezels are smaller.
    • There's a new Apple Pencil with a side touch area that magnetically attaches to the iPad.
    • LCD screen that stretches from edge to edge. It's technically a Liquid Retina Display.
    • 11-inch display; 2388 x 1668; 264 ppi.
    • Face ID.
    • 5.9mm thick, 15 percent thinner than before.
    • 7 MP front facing calendar.
    • A12X Bionic 7nm processor.
    • Up to 1TB of storage.
    • USB-C connectors.

    CNET: New Apple iPad Pro ditches both Lightning port and headphone jack | Updated Apple Pencil charges wirelessly | The new iPad Pro can charge your iPhone

    ipad-pro-specs.jpg

    What these new iPad Pro specs really do is give the device the ability to run more demanding apps. Adobe's move to preview "full Photoshop" for the iPad with availability in 2019 certainly won't hurt. The enterprise case for the iPad Pro was also made stronger when Autodesk said it will bring AutoCAD to the iPad.

    Also: Best Apple iPad Pro alternatives you can buy right now | Best Microsoft Surface Pro 6 alternatives you can buy right now

    The iPad Pro -- a quasi laptop experience for some -- is about keeping enterprises interested in the ecosystem, as competition from Microsoft Surface and its alternatives also battle for CIOs.

    photoshop-cc-ipad.png

    The iPad Pro launch fits the bill. If anything, the new iPad models are likely to keep the enterprise ecosystem flywheel rolling.

    Also: Apple in the Enterprise: A Strategic Guide | Best Apple iPad Pro alternatives you can buy right now

    Consider recent events supporting Apple's enterprise ecosystem:

    • Adobe at its Max conference outlined how Photoshop CC updates will fully support the iPad. Adobe executives even noted that Photoshop was more natural on the iPad given its Apple Pencil and power. Clearly, Adobe has built Photoshop CC for the new iPad Pro.
    • At the Jamf User Nation Conference, IBM CIO Fletcher Previn announced that his company will open source its Mac@IBM enrollment app. IBM has invested for three years on deploying the macOS in its company. In 2015, there were 30,000 IBM employees using Macs. In 2018, that IBM Mac user base is 134,000. IBM also took the lessons from the Mac@IBM program and used it for its PC deployments at the company.
    • Jamf said SAP will use Jamf Pro to manage its Apple devices as one ecosystem. SAP has 17,000 Macs, 83,000 iOS devices and 170 Apple TVs in the field.
    • Microsoft will connect its Microsoft Enterprise Mobility _ Security platform with Jamf Pro to enable users to log into a new Mac with Microsoft Azure Active Directory credential.
    • Salesforce is the latest enterprise giant to partner with Apple on optimizing apps for iOS. Salesforce joins Cisco, Accenture, SAP and IBM. as enterprise partners.

    With that backdrop it seems obvious that the iPad Pro launch with a few Mac updates isn't about the tech press, consumer buzz or influencer relations. These hardware launches are all about keeping the enterprise gravy train going.

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