iPad Pro Takes Aim at Businesses With Productivity, Design Apps

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By Devin Coldewey

Apple has frequently been successful with its consumer-friendly products, like iPhoto and Mail, but its forays into the professional and enterprise scene haven't always been huge hits. That may change with the iPad Pro, however, which Apple clearly intends to place in many an office, be it a doctor's, advertiser's or designer's.

"I see this as an opening salvo," said Gartner analyst Brian Blau in an interview with NBC News. "It's meeting the other platforms where they already are. And companies that want to leave that desktop PC experience behind, now they're going to have Apple to consider."

The iPad Pro was among a slate of new products unveiled by Apple on Wednesday. With a 12.9-inch screen and stylus support, it blurs the line between iPads and Macs and aims squarely for the corporate market.

Read More: Apple Unveils iPad Pro, Its Largest Tablet Ever, Starting at $799

"There's a clear path for Apple to say, 'we have a lot of opportunity in an area we don't have a lot of presence in right now,'" Stephen Baker, NPD's vice president of industry analysis, told NBC News. "The iPad Pro is a way of staking that ground."

Apple made sure not to stake out too much ground, though. On stage, representatives from Microsoft and Adobe showed off an iPad-enhanced version of Office and a gesture-based print layout app. The message was clear: There's room for everybody on this device.

"It's a recognition that more and more, everybody can't be everything, that I should take what I'm good at and what other people are good at and be successful with that. Microsoft being there wasn't an accident," Baker said.


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And while the tools were more suited to jotting down ideas during meetings than producing a finished product or running a project, it's clear they're meant to be an alternative to clunkier solutions in use at businesses.

"Enterprise is going through a transition away from desktops and laptops and toward mobile," Blau said. But at the same time, he cautioned, "It's not all about the device. If you're a field or factory worker, it honestly doesn't matter what tablet device you pick up. It's all about these backend services now."

Ease of use and broad familiarity with iOS itself may be a better fit for getting Apple hardware in the door at small and medium-sized businesses, Baker suggested.

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"That's an area that's ripe for them to come into," he said. "Because at so many of those organizations, the employees are close to the IT department. They may be using Macs and iPhones at home. They're the ones who are going to start agitating for a broader selection of productivity devices in the workplace."

And as long as Apple is selling iPads in number, or really any hardware, the company is going to be happy.

"Apple is focused on generating profits by selling high-margin hardware," BTIG's Walter Piecyk told NBC News. "iPad revenue has been down for six quarters. So you're taking a strong existing product and finding another segment — that could be sizable — to try to return that product line to growth."

Whatever course Apple pursues, it seems likely we'll be hearing lots more about their workplace devices and platforms over the next year.