Can Apple's 9.7-inch iPad Pro replace 600 million old PCs without mouse support?

Apple has grand ambitions for the iPad Pro--take productivity workloads away from Windows--all without mouse support. Will enterprises play along?
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Apple is aiming its pair of iPad Pro devices squarely at the 600 million PCs in the market older than 5 years, but has a big handicap: Lack of mouse support.

Yeah, we know the mouse is dead. Bluetooth mice are wonky. But the iPad Pro is supposed to be a business device and a productivity machine. If Apple is going to really edge its way into the corporate PC buying cycle it may want to add mouse support to iOS at WWDC when it shows off the next version of iOS.

Don't believe me? Check out Apple's community threads. Not everyone wants a mouse, but enough do to warrant support. Call these workers old fashioned. Call these workers dinosaurs. I'd call them a market of future iPad Pro users.

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What the iPad Pro will ultimately be compared to is Microsoft's Surface and a series of clones from PC makers. All you have to do is check off mouse support and you shut up a lot of haters (all of which will bring up price in the next breath). Nevertheless, mouse support wouldn't be a bad idea.

Richard Windsor, an analyst at Edison Investment Research, said:

The iPad Pro 9.7" is an exact replica of its big brother, except that it has a 9.7" screen and consequently comes at a slightly lower price. Apple is targeting the 600m PCs that are in use today that are over 5 years old and in that regard the new screen size is a good idea. This is because the critical application for a PC is the productivity suite Microsoft Office.

However I think that Apple will still struggle to attract this segment for two reasons. First, almost all content creation outside of design is much easier and much more productive with the use of a mouse which iOS still does not support. There is no reason why this could not be added to iOS and it is something that we will be looking for at WWDC in June as a sign that Apple is taking productivity seriously.

Second, the iPad Pro is still too expensive. The equivalent Surface 3 product from Microsoft with a 10.8" screen, mouse support and capable of running the full version of Office is some 40% cheaper. This means that as a laptop or desktop replacement, the iPad Pro is going to fall short as no user that really cares about Office is likely to choose it over the Surface...We do not see the owners of the 600 million old PCs flipping to this device but we do see older iPad users upgrading to this new product in time.

That view may be a bit extreme, but Windsor's take makes sense. The mouse matters even if you can reasonably argue that Office on the iPad is as good if not better than the Windows 10 version.

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Credit Suisse analyst Kulbinder Garcha noted that the smaller iPad Pro is aimed at taking Windows workloads as well as Mac customers. However, Garcha said the 9.7" iPad Pro is necessary for Apple's product lineup but doesn't expect much of a sales pop. Instead, Apple may see "modest upside over time."

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