ANALYSIS: It appears increasingly likely that updated Apple iPad Pro and Microsoft Surface Pro tablets will compete head to head starting this spring.
Apple has a surprising problem with its iPad tablets. Microsoft seems to have stolen the creative market mindshare with its latest Surface tablet and it’s sure that the Redmond giant has every intention of keeping it that way.
Apple, meanwhile, hasn’t introduced a new version of the iPad Air for over two years, and it’s been nearly a year and a half since it introduced the 12.9-inch version of the iPad Pro.
During much of this time Microsoft has been advertising the Surface Pro 4’s capabilities as a creative platform and its support for a stylus that’s well integrated with the Windows 10 hardware and applications.
For example the stylus allows people with a creative touch draw realistic pencil sketches on the screen. While Apple has a few apps that support its stylus, the Apple Pencil, it really doesn’t do as much.
Battle of the tablets
But now, both the iPad Pro and the Microsoft Surface Pro are being refreshed and it appears both will be announced in March. With Microsoft the date is pretty easy to figure out, if only because the company has started discounting the Surface Pro 4, and that always starts happening a couple of months before the new version so Microsoft can clear out its inventory.
With Apple, the March time frame is highly probable if only because the 9.7-inch iPad Pro was announced March 21, 2016.
But given this probable time frame, what is Apple going to introduce? There’s a lot of speculation with rumors pointing to either a new iPad Air 3 or a new 9.7-inch iPad Pro. A new 12.9-inch iPad Pro is virtually certain. Whether there’ll be a new iPad Mini is still a matter of conjecture.
iPad Pro plans
The iPad Pro was originally conceived as being aimed primarily at business users, which is why the device supports an attached keyboard and the Pencil.
In March 2016 Apple announced a new iPad Pro with improved features such as a better camera in a smaller size, this time 9.7 inches. But when compared to the steady annual pace of the iPhone, the iPad series has been upgraded at a very leisurely pace.
Still the iPad has become a critical part of some industries, such as aviation, where iPads have virtually eliminated the use of paper in the cockpits ranging from general aviation to major airlines. Clearly, if Apple is to remain relevant among business users, there needs to be some effort to update the technology.
That’s what Apple plans to do. At the very least, Apple will bring the 12.9-inch iPad up the same feature standards as the smaller iPad Pro. This would include a 12 megapixel camera and a better screen. A faster processor is almost a given with the next in line being the A10X.
Originally published on eWeek