Why the iPad Pro will flop, if it's really coming

Rumors are heating up that Apple will release a large iPad with a stylus this year. Such a product goes against the grain of the way the folks in Cupertino do business, and if it's real it will probably fail.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor
Rumors about a large iPad have been around for a long time. These have flared up again recently and claim the iPad Pro, as it's now being called, is coming this year. We're told it will be an iPad much like the iPad Air 2, but with a 12 or 13-inch display. It's supposed to have some sort of stylus, too.

An argument being made for the iPad Pro is that Apple will produce the large iPad to deal with slowing sales of existing iPads. New product, new sales is the theme. The larger tablet will be a natural for the enterprise, we're told.

I don't see it. An iPad this large doesn't fit the Apple model when it comes to new products. If it does come to pass, I see it possibly becoming the biggest flop from Apple in years.

Apple's business model has resulted in success after success. It doesn't create new device categories, it creates gadgets in existing product categories that appeal to a big consumer market. It did this with the iPod, iPhone, iPad, and most recently the Apple Watch. It made devices in each of these categories that appealed to millions, and that were better than anything before.

The rumored iPad Pro doesn't fit this business model. It's nothing new, just a bigger iPad.

Niche product

A 12 or 13 inch tablet is too large to have mass appeal. Sure, it would grab some consumers and get picked up by some companies, but the vast consumer market will not warm to such a big, honking device.

A large tablet won't be comfortable to hold to consume content, a major pastime for iPad Air and iPad mini owners. Like other large tablets on the market it will be unwieldy. When it comes to tablets, smaller is better.

Consumers seem to be going smaller with mobile devices. Apple CEO Tim Cook said as much when he admitted that the iPhone 6 Plus was cannibalizing iPad sales. That makes a release of an iPad even bigger than existing models an illogical move.

See also: Apple needs the iPad to be 'long arc,' enterprise driven

As for the rumored stylus, Apple has always been against them since the launch of the original iPad. Steve Jobs made it clear that he was dead set against them, and I don't think that has changed at Apple. Plus, the company would have to develop new technology to make it work well as existing styli are not good for heavy work with a pen. The capacitive touch screens on iPads are not conducive to activities that require precision.

Launching a new product with limited appeal is not something Apple does. The company goes for products that appeal to the huge consumer market, the only way to generate the billions in revenue it expects from each member of its product line.

Too big for work

I think the iPad Pro would be too big for most people to use for work. While a larger iPad might be better than the iPad Air for some specialized work functions, e.g. working with CAD drawings, for most enterprise tasks it will be bigger than workers will be willing to use.

But what if you use the iPad Pro with a keyboard case? That's a common scenario for many iPad Air owners, and a good solution for work. That wouldn't be the case with such a large iPad because such a case would be too big, even bigger than some laptops.

The appeal of using the iPad Air with a keyboard is that it approaches laptop functionality in a a very portable form. That flies out the window with such a large tablet, which minimizes the benefit of using one with a keyboard instead of a laptop.

Hopefully it's just a rumor

We must remember that the iPad Pro is not a real product, no matter how much pundits write about it. If Apple flies in the face of logic and does bring such a big iPad to market it will be a huge gamble.

Tablet sales are falling, including iPads. It makes no sense for Apple to bring another iPad to market in that environment.

As for the enterprise angle, don't forget that Apple is already making inroads with existing iPads given its alliance with IBM. This seems to be doing OK, and yet iPad sales are still dropping. There's nothing about an iPad Pro that will change that.

If for some reason Apple does bring the iPad Pro to market, it's not going to resonate with the mainstream consumer market. That opens Apple up to a big failure as there's a very good chance it will be a major flop.

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