The new iPad is just called the iPad Pro. Or perhaps it's the iPad Pro 9.7-inch, sort of like the MacBook Pro gets identified by its screen size. That naming is a signal: Apple wants you to think of these like computers now. You think of them in terms of screen size, not in terms of how many versions have been released. And so here is just the iPad Pro, and it is a very very good iPad. An iPad so powerful that you could compare it to a computer — especially since you can get a keyboard and an Apple Pencil to do more advanced stuff with it.
But is it a computer? That's always the question, isn't it?
Pricing-wise, the new iPad Pro is less expensive than last year's inaugural iPad Pro, but it's still not a "cheap" iPad: it starts at $599 for a base model, and goes up to $899 (!) for a 256GB model. Throw in the Apple Pencil, plus an accessory keyboard, and you're still looking at computer-level amounts of money.
After using the new iPad Pro for a few short minutes, I can say with certainty that it isn't as overwhelmingly large as the original iPad Pro; it's basically as thin and light as an iPad Air 2, but with the aforementioned accessories. Seriously, look below and see if you can tell the iPad Pro apart from the iPad Air 2 next to it. The other, well, notable thing is that crazy antenna line on the back. Presumably that will be a big help with Wi-Fi performance, but it's also a kind of a weird step backward for an iPad's overall aesthetic.
Oh, and there's a camera bump for that 12-megapixel camera. Come on.
But I really don't have any complaints about the design. It's thin, it weighs about a pound, and within that svelte frame is a very powerful computer (It's a computer, right?). It's as fast as the larger iPad Pro, it has the same support for the Apple Pencil and an even better screen, if you consider the underlying "True Tone" technology that adjusts the color temperature for the room you're in.
I can imagine a lot of people are going to try to make a go of making this their only computer when they travel.
I also tried out the keyboard very briefly and what I can tell you about it is this: it will take some getting used to, just like any keyboard designed to be paired with a 9.7-inch tablet. It connects easily via the Smart Connector, so in terms of raw functionality it works well. But in terms of usability, I'm much more dubious. The keys are pretty widely separated, which can be unforgiving. Honestly, I'll need to use it for awhile before I know if it's any good.
The real question, though, is whether this is the iPad that will revive iPad sales or be another incremental but important step in the direction of maybe, possibly, someday, using our tablets as our full-time PCs. Last year's iPad Pro didn't appear to be any kind of savior for Apple, with iPad sales down 21 percent in the first quarter of 2016 from the previous year. While it is, by almost all accounts, an impressive computing device, the iPad Pro has established itself as a niche product in the short time it's been around.
So can a "regular" iPad with an A9X processor, a gorgeous display, Pencil compatibility and an accessory keyboard do better? There's a very good chance that people who are considering an iPad upgrade will default to this one, because, it's now the best iPad there is. The issue, though, is that people considering buying an iPad still don't equal as many people as Apple would hope.
On stage, Phil Schiller identified his preferred competition: 5-year-old PCs that millions of people are still using. Convincing them is apparently easier than convincing people who currently own iPads.
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