iPad Pro: Apple's tablet is a big fat enterprise failure

No executive is going to lug around this morbidly obese tablet in place of a smaller iPad or a real laptop.
Written by Jason Perlow, Senior Contributing Writer

I'm a huge fan of the iPad. In anticipation of the release of new models, I turned in my iPad Air 2 for cash at Amazon back in August.

I decided to buy an iPad Pro sight unseen, using Apple's online store on November 11, as I was on a business trip at the time in Chicago and was unable to go to a retail location to see one in person.

After a shipping hiccup in China, I received it last Friday, the 20th, almost a week after my peers at ZDNet and other publications had reviewed it.

While I enjoy using the device, and it's an impressive piece of technology, I have come to the conclusion that like all other iPads that have come before it, the unit is totally inappropriate and undesirable for enterprise use.

Understand that I have never used my iPad to do real work -- I've owned every "regular-sized" model since the product's introduction in 2010, and have always considered it my off-hours device.

It's what I use first thing in the morning, and it's my primary media and entertainment device in the evening as well as on the weekends.

While I do some light work with it, such as answering emails and viewing presentations and documents, I have never gone to a work location with an iPad.

A few years ago I even stopped bringing it on vacation, because smartphones and mobile apps became good enough, and smaller touchscreen laptops became more convenient and more useful if I actually had to do anything work related.

My current travel and vacation laptop of choice? The Intel Atom-powered Microsoft Surface 3, which I bought from Costco, with keyboard and stylus, for $600.

Yeah, I'm one of those guys that sometimes works on vacation. It's a crappy habit I need to rid myself of.

But the real reason why I don't travel with iPads is that I find them to be too fragile. There's far too much exposed glass on a "naked" unit, and to compensate for that, you have to put it in a very heavy duty hardcase.

Doing so can effectively double the weight of the device, which negates the entire point of having a thin, streamlined mobile computer or tablet in the first place.

This has always been my primary complaint when it comes to iPads. I feel that to succeed in an enterprise setting, it has to be actually built for work, as well as for vertical market scenarios.

The iPad has always been a consumer-grade device, which due to its success in consumer settings has been shoehorned and reluctantly allowed into business environments.

The regular-sized, 9.7" iPad is already handicapped for business use. While you can certainly run Office on it -- like many executives choose to do -- a lot of other line-of-business applications require remote access to a real Windows system, such as through RDS or Citrix XenApp.

Despite the iPad's innate fragility and need to be connected to remote line-of-business applications, it has not stopped many executives from using the iPad as a primary computing device.

Apple has sold many millions of units to business users, even with these limitations.

However, I think a lot of reasons why execs were willing to deal with this trade-off in functionality is that the regular-sized iPad is convenient to carry around.

I knew when I ordered the iPad Pro that it was going to be bigger. Yes, I knew the specs on the screen was almost 13" on the diagonal. But until you actually hold one of these things, you don't realize just how big it really is.

It's a frickin' cheese tray.

My first impression after unboxing the iPad Pro was "Oh my God, that's a hell of a lot of glass."

Then I picked it up and realized just how unwieldy it was, and how slippery it is when held without a case. The regular iPad is flat-out unnerving to use caseless, but the Pro? It feels like tempting fate.

So the first thing I did was put it in a protective case. I have two hardcases for iPad Pro I am currently evaluating, the Ballistic Tough Jacket and the Urban Armor Gear. Both are really good protection solutions, but add significant weight to the device.

The iPad Pro, if you leave the case out of the equation, is about the same exact weight as the first-generation iPad. The fundamental problem is how awkwardly large the unit is. The screen area is actually larger than that of a 12" Macbook and the tablet itself is significantly larger in screen area than a Surface Pro 4.

The iPad Pro is not a tablet. It's a tabloid. You need two hands to operate it and to hold it securely. If a tablet could be obese, it would be the iPad Pro.

Other than the usual spec increase -- the speedy A9X processor and the increased RAM and faster flash storage, the main attraction to the iPad Pro is the gorgeous, ultra high-resolution display, coupled with their "Pencil" stylus, which unfortunately is backordered several weeks if you bought the device online.

But holding that display is awkward. You don't want to hold it on your lap because you'll put yourself into a weird ergonomic position and holding it freehand for an extended period of time is pretty much out of the question.

In short, it's probably not leaving the house or the boardroom.

This is a large device that is meant to be propped up on a table, or used lying down on a couch or in bed -- which is how I find myself interacting with it pretty much all of the time.

I binge watched Amazon's The Man In the High Castle on it over the weekend, and I was really impressed with display's color representation and contrast level. However I found it difficult to keep the screen propped up straight as the weight of the device caused it to constantly slip off the pillows I was propping it up on.

On the couch, I laid the device flat on the cushion while I put myself in essentially a prone position with my head directly facing the screen. I'm all for casual work environments, but this is ridiculous.

Sure, you can type with the thing using either Apple's OEM keyboard case or a number of other 3rd-party solutions, such as Logitech's, but you can't adjust the angle of the screen, like the Surface 3 or Surface Pro 4 out of the box.

Ideally what you want is some kind of accessory that places the screen on a 20 or 30 degree angle, because you get a crook in your neck by looking at it lying down flat. And using it on your lap or in a cramped aircraft seat is pretty much out of the question.

UAG's hardcase has a Surface-like adjustable easel, which allows you to stand it up on a few different angles. Ballistic's Tough Jacket is a bit more protective, but the stand only has a single position.

I spoke with several executives that were considering purchase of the device -- every single one of them rejected it after playing with one in person, because the trade-off in functionality from a full-featured laptop was no longer worth it if the device was less convenient to travel with.

While the hefty price was certainly a factor in their decision to either retain their existing iPads or look at other solutions like the Surface Pro 4, it was ultimately the inconvenience that killed the deal for all of these guys, since I would classify them as heavy disposable income types.

And for those that were serious road warriors, putting it in a heavy case to protect it from damage was an absolute deal breaker.

So we have this powerful, "Professional" grade content creation-oriented tablet that has limited portability, and also currently lacks apps that can truly exploit its capabilities -- not to mention that it's also too fragile for doing real work or for vertical apps.

I'm sure a niche of content creation types will find new and interesting uses for the iPad Pro, especially once we see some really exploitative apps written to take advantage of the screen, the Pencil and more powerful hardware.

But as an enterprise device, a so-called "Professional" device for business, I think Apple really dropped the ball here.

Has the iPad Pro failed to meet enterprise expectations? Will executives reject it in favor of other solutions? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

iPad Pro: 5 things I like (and 5 I don't)

Editorial standards