What does the "Pro" in iPad Pro really mean?

Adding the "Pro" moniker makes sense if you're Apple. To most others though, it inevitably brings comparisons to high-end traditional computers. Maybe iPad Plus would make more sense.
Written by Kevin Tofel, Contributor

What does the "Pro" in iPad Pro really mean? And does calling a device a "Pro" computer mean it's an enterprise device?

Perhaps Apple should have called its new larger iPad the iPad Plus. Maybe then people would be talking about it differently.

I have a theory on why that didn't happen - more about that later - but let's consider what the "Pro" name really means because it's spurring much debate over that the tablet actually is.

By using the word Pro to describe the 12.9-inch iOS tablet, Apple has actually muddied the waters a bit. It also doesn't help clarify matters when Apple CEO, Tim Cook, recently said "Why would you buy a PC any more?" when discussing the iPad Pro. With a comment like that and "Pro" in the name, I think Apple has a small PR challenge.

For instance, Cook's comment makes it pretty clear that he thinks for many people, the iPad Pro can take the place of a new laptop or desktop computer running a non-mobile operating system. I tend to agree with him, but only to a point: If you want or need to use Windows (or Mac OS X) apps, the iPad Pro isn't a good replacement choice without a great deal of compromise. I'd recommend a Surface Pro 4 in that case.

But a Pro device should be able to handle anything and have tons of additional support options such as SD cards, USB ports, a mouse or trackpad, etc....., right?

That's the gist of many comments I've received lately when discussing the iPad Pro. And I get that, provided you too are trying to compare a top-of-the-line tablet with a traditional PC and don't want to use a touchscreen or keyboard shortcuts as your main input methods.

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And therein lies the problem calling it an iPad "Pro"; doing so opens up such commentary.

Is "Pro" the right moniker, then? For many people, clearly it isn't. For Apple, though, it is.

Look to the company's laptop and desktop line to see why. For years, Apple made a MacBook and a MacBook Pro; it still does but has also added the MacBook Air, bumped the 13-inch MacBook to the Pro line and has a "non-Pro" MacBook 12-inch laptop. On the desktop side, there's no iMac Pro but there is a Mac mini and a Mac Pro.


All of these product lines share many qualities and offer a range of similar experiences that vary based on the components used inside them. The Pro computers aren't solely aimed at professionals; although most of the sales likely are by such users, there are plenty of consumers and pro-sumers that buy the Pro line of Mac computers. These all do the same thing but the more expensive Pro products cost more because of the better, faster components.

That's why I think the latest iPad has a Pro in the name.

It's still an iPad that runs iOS but has better, faster components in addition to a larger display that is meant to take full advantage of the multitasking added to iOS 9. From that respect, the naming makes sense, yet I don't think people are looking at it that way. Additional new third-party apps that really make Apple's tablet hardware shine can help change that; we'll see if developers rise to the challenge.

Apple's phone lines have different tiers as well, just like its laptop, desktop and tablet products. The largest device with the best components, however is called a Plus. So why not call the iPad Pro the iPad Plus?

Again, you have to think like Apple.

By using the Pro nomenclature, it's evident to me that Apple considers the iPad more of a computer than a phone, even though phones are certainly computers too. In essence, by calling the tablet an iPad Pro, it signals that it believes tablets running mobile software are at least a part of computing's future; a point I made earlier this month.

My review of the iPad Pro is forthcoming - I'm waiting for my SmartKeyboard - but based on articles, reviews and comments around the web, Apple's new product is fighting against a stigma of its own making.

Adding the word "Pro" to a product name means different things to different people and even though we're in the midst of a transition from desktop to mobile, some are still going to compare the latest iPad to current Pro-style desktops and laptops by confusing form factors with computing activities.

Maybe iPad Plus would have been a better name after all.

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