Back in 2010, when Apple launched the first iPad, Steve Jobs masterfully made the case for a third mobile device between the smartphone and the laptop.
After the launch, however, some critics called it just a big iPhone, the implication being that it brought nothing new or innovative to the table.
For the iPad to be successful, argued Jobs, it had to do some things better than the other devices. Otherwise, what was the point?
More than the sum of its parts
What could the iPad do better than the smartphone, on the one hand, and the laptop on the other? In Jobs’ view, it was web browsing, email and social media, photo organization and editing, watching movies and videos, music, games, and eBooks.
Although you could perform all those tasks on a smartphone, Jobs said, the screen size was less than optimal. Similarly, although you could perform the tasks on a laptop, those devices were bulky, had short battery life, and their trackpads were difficult to use for some operations.
The original iPad was much more than the sum of its parts, and Apple sold millions of them.
For many people, as Steve Jobs predicted, the iPad was all the computer they needed. It did the fundamental computing tasks well in a lightweight, portable, touch-enabled package.
Over time, as new iPads were introduced, and as third-party developers jumped aboard, the platform became more and more capable.
Not a productivity device?
Eventually, of course, the iPad sales trajectory plateaued and began to decline.
Critics, and there were many, said that the iPad was not good for productivity applications—document creation, spreadsheets, photography and video production, programming, and other specialized office applications.
The device did not have a physical keyboard. You couldn’t multi-task on it. It didn’t have enough processing power or memory. It didn’t have USB, so you couldn’t connect peripherals to it. And so on.
Some pundits on the fringe even declared that the iPad was a dying platform, despite the fact that Apple continues to sell tens of millions of them each quarter.
My take is, because the iPad took off like a rocket ship when it was first announced, it had to come back to earth eventually.
All along, Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, has been keeping the faith. At a recent earnings conference call, Cook said:
I am still bullish on iPad…The enterprise business is picking up and more and more companies are either contracting for or writing apps themselves…And I believe that the iPad consumer upgrade cycle will eventually occur, because as we look at the usage statistics on iPad, it remains unbelievably great. I mean, the next closest usage of the next competitor, we’re six times greater. And so these are extraordinary numbers. It’s not like people have forgotten iPad or anything, it’s a fantastic product.
Enter the iPad Pro
Now comes the iPad Pro. Some critics say it’s just a big iPad, again implying that Apple is not bringing anything new to the table. This, despite the new, larger form factor, Smart Keyboard, and Pencil accessories.
Interestingly, however, virtually every review of the iPad Pro—and I’ve read at least a dozen—has positive things to say about the new device.
Is it a laptop replacement? For true power users, no, not yet. But for many users, it could be the ideal laptop replacement.
In my view, it is the perfect computer for students, especially college students. The device offers a well-targeted complement of capabilities that suits the student living away from home, in a dorm or off-campus.
Let’s take a look.
Apple engineers have put practically all of the company’s latest innovations into the iPad Pro. You can check out the specs here, but for my money, the super high-res 12.9-inch screen, the adaptive quad-speaker array, Smart Keyboard, and Pencil stand out.
Like all iOS devices, the iPad Pro provides the very capable Safari web browser. The iPad Pro also has access to iTunes U, which offers both professors and students tools for lesson planning, assigned and recommended reading, and more.
As a tandem, the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, provide what has been described described as the closest thing to paper and pen than those items themselves. Apple Pencil is said to detect pressure, angle, and orientation allowing it to closely emulate the behaviors of a pencil, charcoal or brush.
I’ve not been able to try Apple Pencil myself, but I’ve read a couple of reviews that speak favorably of its note- taking capabilities with iPad Pro. The nice thing is, once captured, notes can be organized, transcribed, shared, and otherwise put to good use.
Just as with note-taking, the Apple Pencil and iPad Pro is said to excel with drawing and sketching.
Add in the Smart Keyboard, and using either the Pages app, or for extra-cost, Microsoft Word, the iPad Pro is perfect for students composing term papers and other documents requiring formatting.
I’ve not tried the Smart Keyboard yet, but reviewers seem to either love it or hate it. As one might expect, the longer reviewers use the keyboard, the more they like it.
One other thing to consider in a dorm environment, the Smart Keyboard is a single overlaid piece of material. It is therefore impervious to coffee, beer, and other liquids.
For music students, with GarageBand and other music composition apps, the iPad Pro is a serious tool. In addition, it’s large screen, built-in microphones, and adaptive four-speaker array provide a self-contained production studio for the budding musician.
Although the iPad Pro and its add-ons aren’t cheap, they rival the cost of a good laptop, and in some respects provide a wider array of applications.
In addition to all the academic uses, the iPad Pro is a serious recreational tool—TV, boom box, telephone, video phone, video and photo camera, social media control center, and more.
Students, aren’t likely to need much more than the iPad Pro for most of what they need and like to do at school.