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Nice try, Apple. The Maxi Pad is no laptop killer – and won’t scratch the Surface

The ‘mobile app gap’ is still a problem, says Forrester

Apple’s Maxi Pad is no laptop or Surface Pro killer – even though it holds up comparatively well for general workforce usage.

This is the prognosis from some in the analyst community and those who will compete against it. The view from the Mac channel understandably differs somewhat.

A relatively late market entrant - not that this has held Apple back before - the iPad Pro packs a 64-bit ARM compatible A9X CPU that is 360 times faster than the original iPad, weighs 1.57lbs, and offers ten hours of battery life, Apple claimed at the launch of the device.

The iPad Pro borrows features from the Surface - a keyboard and pen can be bought separately. This is a nod to the criticisms of past pads; they're usable content consumption devices but aren't content creation kings for most IT pros.

Apple dragged Microsoft on stage at the recent unveiling to demonstrate its wares on the device; Microsoft desperately needs to expand its relaitvely low OS share in a mobile world; Apple needs to appeal to more businesses.

According to the big brains at Forrester, 59 per cent of laptop users at work spend more than three hours using the device, but only 22 per cent of their time on a fondleslab.

In enterprises with 500-plus users, 53 per cent of the tabs in use are employee owned, compared with 21 per cent for laptops - this is the BYOD factor at work. However, the proportion of the pad market sold to businesses is forecast to grow from six per cent of total tab sales in 2010 to a fifth in 2018.

The problem facing Apple is the “mobile app gap”, said Frank Gillet, Forrester veep, and the "[iPad Pro] won’t take massive share from laptop, nor will it dent Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3, which offer a full Windows OS”.

Some companies, including GE, have ploughed cash into iOS – to set up mobile developer centres to convert business critical application into the OS – but many have not.

“Most companies are still contending with decades worth of investment in proprietary software infrastructures. When asked which OS they associate with legacy application compatibility on tablets, 56 per cent of technology decision-makers list Windows, and only 11 per cent list iOS,” said Gillet.

This means there is a divide between tasks workers can fulfil on an iOS device versus Windows, and will push those in charge of Infrastructure and Operations to think of iPad Pro as a “supplemental device”.

iPads and iPhones are "not generally" domain-joined, so users can't access core network folders, and this has necessitated the use of intermediaries, Forrester added. Conversely, the Surface Pro is both domain-joined and manageable via standard PC management tools that are already in use.

Verticals where the iPad Pro makes sense include medical imaging, architecture, photography, construction documents, field video work and creative arts, where existing applications can make more use of the 12.9-inch screen size, specs and improved sound.

The tab consumer market is slowing and Apple, mindful of its standing in the corporate enterprise, has established “strategic” relations with the grey suits at IBM and more recently Cisco.

Edging into enterprise market was always inevitable, said Jeremy Davies, CEO at channel analysts Context. “There are still margins [in that sector], potential repeat business and no fickle fashion follies, just hard-nosed CIOs looking to make things work long-term at a decent price. Well, mostly,” he told us.

Tab sales in businesses are “not exploding” but are “up modestly", according to Context.

The white elephant in the room or the “one big issue” pertains to iOS and OSX integration, said Davies.

“I think Microsoft has a huge potential on its hands with Win10 and Surface Pro 3, as they do span the app gap, and you can have traditional laptops, phones and tablets that are on the same basic OS,” Davies added.

Boiled down, technologists at resellers that we spoke to agreed fanbois will hanker after the Pro but the device may not allow enterprise people get a full Windows experience.

“The Microsoft Office 365/Outlook version is outstanding but has several gaps that prevent it [iPad Pro] being a Surface replacement. Outlook tasks are not usable, and many use this feature extensively to manage their jobs,” said one.

Excel lacks the capabilities to link with external databases for analysis and number crunching and there are some major authentication issues, with users regularly needing to re-enter credentials multiple times.

The new keyboard may be seen as a welcome edition, but Logitech has already provided a product for the classic iPad and so those that are “determined” to use the devices for content creation are probably already doing so.

Apple may have expanded its sales channels with IBM and Cisco, but so too has Microsoft, giving HP and Dell authorisation to buy and sell the Surface Pro 3 to their large enteprise customers.

Some say this is the first step Microsoft is taking to withdraw from selling Surface itself; the foray into hardware has been a costly exercise, but this is simply industry chatter at this stage.

Channel bully boy Apple has repeatedly trodden on the toes of resellers, whether it be setting up Apple stores in the same locations as them, or restricting/ delaying access to hot selling products.

We spoke to several firms in the Mac channel, on the condition of anonymity, and they were in flag waving mode.

One told us it is "too early to tell" if the Maxi Pad will serve as a laptop or Surface replacement device, but "I can count on one hand the number of customers that have requested Microsoft's Surface".

"IT directors and CIOs are certainly considering Apple as part of their overall procurement. I don't think IT buyers are always looking for the cheapest upfront price, they look at the total cost of ownership. There is greater residual value in Macs and iPads."

Another said the device seems to fit well in Apple's classic sectors - print and publishing, video & broadcasting - and he has "great hopes for it" in the wider enterprise but was unsure how it will sell.

"It sounds to me like the PC boys are running scared," he added. ®

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