Are things getting fruitier for the workplace?
Along with the annual new iPhone update, and Apple's attempt to revolutionise entertainment in the living room with the new Apple TV, the part of Apple's “Hey Siri” presentation that really interested me was Tim Cook’s reveal of the new iPad Pro. The device itself is quite surprising; at first I thought “who needs a really big iPad?” Isn’t it the exact opposite of the recent trend towards ‘phablets’ like the iPad Mini, or last year’s iPhone 6 Plus? But as Tim continued to wow us in the exquisitely slick style Apple Keynotes are famous for, I changed my opinion and am starting to think this might just be the most important product they showed us last week.
The iPad Pro isn't much different in terms of form factor, but as it is a deliberate attempt to gain a bigger presence in the enterprise market and might one day make iOS a successor to both Windows and even Apple’s very own Mac OS.
Apple has never really managed to crack the corporate space. Mac OS has long been a popular choice amongst design professionals. But one area where Apple has successfully broken the wall of business is in mobile. Five years ago, you’d see suits walking round with small curved devices with clicky plastic keys, and screens smaller than the average calculator, fast forward to today and you’ll see a huge proportion of them holding onto iPhones because the ease of use, compatibility, and features they offer.
Hey, using an iPad for productivity tasks is by no means a new idea, people have talked about it and tried it over the last 5 years. But it's never truly taken off and the iPad is still primarily a device for viewing things rather than creating them. A big part of this was because Office wasn't available on iPad while Microsoft was still hedging its bets on Windows 8 and the Surface tablet. And even though Office is constantly evolving (Office 365 is a big seller for us!), there hasn't been much of a song and dance about it and many people still have no idea that it is available on iOS. Apple tried to bridge the gap with their own suite, iWork, but like everyone else who's ever tried going toe-to-toe with Microsoft Office, they got very little traction and ended up giving it away for free.
But that was blown wide open when Microsoft presented at an Apple launch event! I have to admit I wasn’t surprised, having worked for Apple myself, I’ve known that the well published Apple/Microsoft “feud” ended long ago, but I heard some audible gasps and chatter from the audience when Kirk Koenigsbauer, (Corporate VP for Microsoft Office), arrived on stage. Phil Schiller (Apple Senior VP of Marketing) even admitted 'who knows productivity better than Microsoft’. It was a good presentation as well, showing the compatibility and great features of Office we all know, coupled with the iPad’s smoothness. Without wishing to go on, I thought that moment was a big turning point for the entire industry, and marks a massive switch in strategy for both Microsoft and Apple.
Then we saw Apple Pencil, which I think is the last piece of the jigsaw. Despite Steve Jobs' much quoted opinion that using a stylus means you got it wrong, for mainstream productivity you do need an accurate and precise control method, which until now has always been a mouse or trackpad. Traditional touch was never going to replace that, and while your finger is the best pointing device you’ll ever have, it doesn't cut the mustard when you are trying to get pixel perfect detail. The Apple Pencil solves that at a stroke, and along with a convenient hardware keyboard you now have all the physical elements you need for a laptop killer, with the software muscle of Microsoft behind it.
Yes, it looks like Apple has its eye on the workplace as well as your living room. It makes sense, there’s no room left in our pockets!