It has been a common accusation since time immemorial that Apple computers are just too expensive. Even when the original iPad came out much cheaper than the market predicted, it wasn’t long before people concluded the iPad was too expensive.
With the introduction of the new iPads and iPhones, we’re seeing the press double-down on this assertion–one which is only confirmed (to the minds of some) that Apple will no longer give unit sales numbers. Apple has been accused of squeezing out customers, of Apple’s losing profitability, of Apple now trying to lock in customers and engaging in “rent seeking” (despite not understanding what that term means).
And Exhibit One of this assertion is the new iPad Pro:
Apple’s higher iPhone, iPad Pro prices are the new normal
Here’s the thing, though. A couple of years ago developers started to wonder if Apple would make the iPad UI framework available for writing applications on MacOS X.
(For those who don’t know: Apple’s operating systems rely on three core libraries (or frameworks) on which applications are built. The “Foundation” framework provides basic support for things like math, dynamic array storage: the underlying plumbing that any application would rely upon to work. On top of this, Apple has built the “Cocoa” framework, the framework used by MacOS applications to do things like create windows, handle menus, draw to the Mac display, etc. And on iOS, Apple has the “UI” framework, which provides similar functionality as the “Cocoa” framework, but for the iPhone, iPad and Apple TV devices.
Now despite providing similar functions, Apple’s Cocoa and UI frameworks are very different. The objects you use are named differently: “NSView” verses “UIView”, for example. The way they behave are subtly different. And the types of UI objects are very different: the UI framework relies on single-screen viewports which contain the familiar iOS navigation widgets (such as the back button in the upper-left of the screen), while the MacOS framework deals with multi-window applications.
Now elements of Cocoa has been bleeding into the UI framework (such as undo), and the UI framework has been bleeding into Cocoa (such as NSViewController, which manages a group of views).
So the question arises: will they ever be consolidated? Will Apple provide One True Way to write apps?
The argument against this One True Way, however, are the fundamental differences between the sorts of things you may want to do on the Macintosh (multiple window applications that require a mouse pointer and which show everything you need in a small number of windows), and the iPhone (single-window applications that use touch for navigation, and which may rely on lots of small windows and fast flipping between screens to navigate).
All of this makes me think that ultimately the iPad Pro is being positioned as a completely new line of portable computer, one that uses the (carefully thought through) touch-driven user interface ideas first championed on the iPhone.
Yes, a fully equipped 12 inch iPad Pro, once you throw in the smart keyboard and the Apple Pencil comes to $2,230, not including sales tax.
But look at what you get with that 12 inch iPad Pro. You get performance better to the 13″ MacBook Pro, which retails around $2,600. You get 1 TB of storage–the same as the $2,600 MacBook Pro. And you get a computer that is thinner, runs without a fan, and is more portable than the 13″ MacBook Pro. In fact, you get a computer faster and more powerful than the 15″ MacBook Pro that retails around $3,400.
I really think Apple is slowly evolving the iPad Pro as a new line of computers–and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see new APIs in iOS only available to the iPad Pro. (Already we see Apple Pencil APIs only available to the iPad Pro.)
In fact, it would not surprise me–especially given the iPad Pro’s introduction of a USB-C port–a port previously only available to Mac systems–that we start seeing development tools appear on the iPad Pro. I would not be surprised if Apple has Xcode for the iPad waiting in the wings, for example. Already we have the iOS “Files” application which allows you to browse and manage files on your iPad.
In fact, the only thing that appears to be missing from the iOS API is access to the Unix ‘fork’ system call. (Remember: iOS is based on Unix, and in fact, provides access to most familiar Unix API entry points including pthreads.)
Provide that (even in a very limited, controlled way), and you have the potential of an operating system rivaling that of any other Unix-based or Linux-based environment.
The bottom line, though, is that if you look at the iPad Pro as somehow just another iPad–and start looking at pricing considerations by looking at the top of the line–you’ve missed the story.
And if your primary use of the iPad is browsing the web, reading books, and watching movies–you may want to think about the 9.7″ iPad (which tops out at $560 fully loaded) or the iPad Mini (which tops out at $529 fully loaded).
My guess is that a new 10″ iPad and a new iPad Mini will be rolled out at some point with a slightly bumped processor and more storage. Though it wouldn’t surprise me if Apple phases out the iPad entirely. (To me that would be a bit disappointing, since there is room for a lower-cost iPad with less power for those who just want to read books or surf the web.)