An A7-powered iPad 5 will make it more attractive to businesess, but don’t write off PCs just yet, says Wayne Rash
The news that a few analysts think the announcement of a new version of Apple’s iPad tablet may cut into sales of PCs has morphed into proclamations that the PC will soon cease to exist. Some analysts say that it will kill the PC, others maintain that the new iPad will be the only computer businesses will ever need. They are, of course, wrong.
What actually is happening is that Chris Whitmore, an analyst for Deutsche Bank, is suggesting that advances in tablets may cause some softening in sales of traditional PCs. This isn’t the same thing as an end to desktop, laptop and notebook PCs we have worked with for so many years. Far from it.
Whitmore is probably right in the sense that the new iPad, along with other new high-end tablets, will provide functionality that was once limited to PCs. In fact, they will probably supplant some sales of those traditional computers in applications where tablets make sense.
The introduction of an updated iPad has been pretty much a certainty since Apple delivered the fourth-generation tablet a year ago. This year, you’ll see the kind of improvements you’d expect in a new tablet. It will be thinner, have new features such as a fingerprint reader in the home button and better wireless radios. But probably more important, it will have the same A7 processor that’s in the iPhone and it will support 64-bit computing.
When I wrote about the iPhone 5S back in September, I noted that the existence of a 64-bit processor was unlikely to be particularly useful in that device. There are, after all, only so many things you can do in that form factor, even if the processor is really powerful. But the iPad isn’t the same thing as the iPhone. While the two devices are capable of running much of the same software, they frequently perform vastly different functions.
Initially the 64-bit processor, coupled with a 64-bit version of iOS 7, isn’t likely to do much for users of the iPad either. Current tablets will run the same software and the same applications, but ultimately that will change. The enterprise application software, not to mention the content development software that’s coming with broader business acceptance of tablets, will make good use of the chip’s improved performance as well as the access to increased amounts of system memory.
Applications ranging from Photoshop to Microsoft Office will be able to make use of the expanded capabilities of the fifth-generation iPad.
Enterprise role for iPad 5
Those applications will drive broader acceptance of tablets in the enterprise. While it’s easy to think that the iPad is a primary business tool when you see applications such as MicroStrategy’s data visualisations tools at work, the fact is that the vast majority of businesses still use PCs running Microsoft Windows as their core computing platforms.
After the introduction of the fifth-generation iPad, the vast majority of businesses will still use PCs and Microsoft Windows. But what will change is that the Apple iPad will penetrate more deeply into the enterprise, and will be used for tasks that currently require a PC.
This is not to suggest that there’s going to be a mass abandonment of PCs in the enterprise—nor will iPads take over every function now performed by PCs. The reality is that in their current incarnations, the PC with a keyboard and a monitor is still vastly superior to a tablet when it comes to content creation. It’s also superior to a tablet when you need a big screen for things like photo editing.
Not just an executive toy
But not everyone creates content all the time and a great deal of work can be done easily and quickly using a tablet. The iPad is by no means the only tablet available to perform such tasks, but it’s the most common, and that means it’s sure to be the target of much application development. So you can expect to see rapid growth in enterprise apps for the iPad when the 64-bit processor arrives.
Meanwhile, some of the new features of the fifth-generation iPad won’t matter much to the enterprise. The new camera will be nicer, but it won’t be the reason enterprises buy iPad. The Retina display on the iPad Mini probably won’t matter much either. And the new iPads won’t have a couple of features they could really use, such as a real USB port or a slot for a memory card.
But when it comes to being a platform for enterprise applications and for data visualisation, the iPad promises to have an increased role in the enterprise. The new more capable hardware, coupled with an improved iOS 7, will go a long way to helping developers take advantage of that new powerful hardware. Because of this, the iPad will move from its present role—where it’s at least partly an executive toy—to a much bigger productivity role. People will be able to get real work done with an iPad.
But that doesn’t mean the PC will vanish overnight, because it won’t.
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Originally published on eWeek.