Blog post

Five things an iPad Pro needs to do

By Andrew Garver | September 05, 2015 | 10 Comments

With speculation rampant about a new iPad Pro that may or may not be released (or exist!), I started to think about the potential market for such a device. In doing so, I thought of several real challenges that exist today that an enterprise-focused device needs to solve. (Note: I have no insider information on Apple products. I’m merely speculating on the challenges that exist in the market today).

1) True to touch writing. We’ve been using styli for decades, but hardware innovations are still needed. Much like resistive touchscreens circa 2006, the current generation of styli seems to be “the best we can do” from an input standpoint. Unfortunately that means both 1) lag and 2) space between where I touch and what appears. If I’m going to be fooled into writing on a screen, there needs to be zero lag, zero space between the tip of the pen and where the ink displays, and 1:1 pressure sensitivity.

2) Bridge the gap in the enterprise. Businesses do not want to buy more than one primary computing device for their end users. Thus, iPads are at a disadvantage for becoming the sole device. What is that challenge?

Legacy applications.

One kudos I give to Windows 10 is the emphasis on supporting the past (albeit in a more limited way than before) through app virtualization and sandboxing to enable Win32 apps to deploy through the modern Windows Store. Tablets in the enterprise need to acknowledge that there simply are legacy investments in software that will not be modernized. How could an enterprise-focused tablet ease the pain? A couple of options:

A. Running iOS yet enabling some sort of Docker-like container for running legacy apps on the tablet. I like this option. Self-contained containers that package up legacy dependencies into a siloed bundle keeps those old apps running yet doesn’t bog down the OS itself.
B. Dual boot iOS and Mac OS. It’s hard to imagine this actually happening. Additionally, as most end user machines in the enterprise are Windows and much of the legacy investment is centered around Windows and IE, I’m not sure this would solve the problem. Then again, dual booting Mac OS 9 and OS X was actually a thing, so stranger things have happened.
C. Dark horse candidate: Dual boot iOS and Windows 10. How hilarious (or brilliant?) would this be?

Truthfully, it’s difficult to imagine any of these actually happening, yet any enterprise-focused tablet must address the need for a bridge to allow enterprises to build their new apps in modern architectures and gracefully solve for the long tail of older apps that simply won’t be modernized. Apple might not be the one to solve this—they could leave it to vendors that focus on virtualization.

It also may just be that any iPad Pro product isn’t targeting large enterprises with legacy apps. Apple may be more concerned with the next generation of professionals that are not encumbered with such problems. That seems likely, actually. Historically Apple has been unafraid to drop legacy support (USB-C-only on the new Macbook, anyone?) in order to push the industry forward. The challenge with that approach is that it’s conceding certain lucrative pieces of the market to competitors like Microsoft and Microsoft’s hardware partners.

3) Precision input. Precision input on iPads is tough today—particularly for those legacy apps that were mentioned in the previous section. It’s not just legacy though– there are specific needs outside legacy apps that just need more precise input. I’m looking at you, Paper by 53. 🙂

4) Wirelessly project. PowerPoint happens, like it or not. I’m tired of plugging stuff in. Like, really tired. Also, I hate dongles. I also hate competing standards, though, so I want this to work on all WiDi displays.

5) NFC APIs. To date, the NFC capability on iOS devices has been restricted to Apple Pay. There are a myriad of really cool possibilities for enterprises to have “tap to happen” events, if only there’s a standard way of doing so.

Rereading this blog post, it basically sounds like I’m comparing the iPad Pro to the Microsoft Surface. I think there’s some validity to that observation. The Surface solves a number of problems for businesses, includes precision input support, and does so in a package that addresses both forward-facing apps and legacy apps. The iPad Pro will have to differentiate itself from the Surface in a meaningful way to attract large enterprises that now have a compelling alternative in Windows tablets.

What do you think? Am I off base? What do you think the iPad Pro should do?

Leave a Comment


  • John says:

    The iPad pro should try NOT be like the surface. The surface is for those who aren’t capable of getting past a Windows world. (like my grandpa) The iPad is for those who love their devices and are capable of thinking different.. which is rare in large enterprises. Microsoft will do fine with its surface as the “good enough to be considered a tablet but still not an iPad” device, and the iPad will continue to explore new territory and amaze those able to grasp concepts not bound by 90s technology. Lets not cry over the possibility that the Surface’s glory days will be short lived.

    • Andrew Garver says:


      I can appreciate what you’re saying and I think that it’s likely that legacy application gaps will just be allowed to exist. Note my observation that Apple has a history of letting legacy die to push the industry forward.

      Unfortunately this would mean that those companies that hoped that the iPad Pro would suffice as their single device still face the same challenge as they do today when considering iPads–the significant investment required to transition applications and infrastructure to make it work.

      I agree that these types of devices are architected for the future–startups and SMBs have a huge leg up when it comes to what kinds of technologies they can adopt quickly.

  • George says:

    Off base?….pretty much apart from handwriting input – and there is evidence that it will be included in the iPad Pro.
    Precision input? A hangover from crowded desktop days. The simplicity of the iOS ‘Settings’ arrangement with swiped screens is simpler, easier to read and saves on drop down menu hell.
    Bridge the gap? – again legacy hell.
    NFC? Apart from payments which is covered by ApplePay, where are the ‘myriad’ of uses in the real world?

    • Andrew Garver says:


      I respectfully disagree that precision input is merely a leftover from desktops. Professional artists, in particular, benefit from more precise input methods.

      I am certainly not advocating we add a mouse to the iPad. 🙂

      Put bluntly, you are correct that bridging the gap is all about legacy hell. I actually don’t think Apple will do anything about this, yet legacy hell is a real problem.

      NFC on iPhones today are used for initiating Apple Pay in part because the UX in using NFC is good when it comes to being specific about your intention. When I tap an object, I know that I’m doing it and I’m trying to make something happen. This specificity is better than ambiguous location-based actions (though those also have a great place in applications). Basically, NFC is great when when I want to make something happen in the physical world. Three potential use cases: Lock/unlock scenarios: Meeting rooms, restricted access, and corporate badging.

      Any time you can reduce the number of steps required to make something happen, it’s a good thing.

  • Dr Bob says:

    A large format iPad would be wonderful for Enterprise, it could allow for a lot of multitasking and comfortable reading of reports and dashboards in a lightweight, low footprint device that does not weigh you down as you scurry from conference room to conference room.

    Its true that most Enterprises still rely on legacy software but we should really break that down into two categories: Legacy Apps and Legacy Access. Legacy Apps are ancient apps that are still running on a desktop, since this article infers the these apps are coming from a Mac, then its rather obvious that transitioning an app from OS X to iOS is almost a trivial task because they are both running on the same exact UNIX (Darwin) codebase so the skillset is common to both. iOS apps are written on Macs then output to iOS so there is no change in the workflow other than selecting iOS as your compiler’s output instead of OS X. The biggest task (which is really not that big a deal) is to resize the windows to fill an iPad properly, but this is probably a one day job at most.

    Legacy Access wold be where you have to access an existing mainframe or server that serve many uses at once and its still running a very old app. All mainframe and server apps have transitioned to TCP/IP many years ago, on which iOS is based almost exclusively, so its a relatively simple task to write a communications layer to interact with the server. This ancient Legacy Access environments featured rather simple/crude windows so again its a relatively simple task to create new windows for an iOS device of sufficient size that you can enter your queries and see your reports in a comfortable environment. This could take an experienced developer a few days to complete.

    More importantly, Enterprises have been adopting iOS at a spectacular rate already, replacing legacy apps and legacy access with iOS native apps, so the transition to a large screen iPad Pro would be rather trivial, since it just requires adding a window size to fit the iPad Pro’s screen.

    As for wireless connectivity to a projector when performing presentations using Keynote (for PowerPoint), Apple solved that long ago with AirPlay. There are high quality AirPlay equipped projectors already on the market so there is no reason to fuss with clunky and incompatible cables.

    Either way, implementing the new iPad Pro is far more trivial than adopting any other new solution and is likely to be a huge success in the Enterprise where overweight and unreliable laptops can effortless be replaced with a super lightweight, powerful and elegant iPad Pro.

    • GerryBowsinger says:

      How about a super lightweight amazingly powerful and elegant Surface 4 Pro tablet?

      This solution would require Absolute Zero cost to implement legacy apps as this solution requires absolutely no customization.

      Out-of-the-box, Windows OS’s are far more stable, more secure and easier to integrate with existing enterprise architecture.

      Windows OS fits beautifully and elegantly anywhere and everywhere and requires no geeky tweeking of any software layer which would cost enterprises countless millions.

      Furthermore, since iOS and MacOS are still very young , plagued with evermore increasing bugs, glitches, security and compatability issues which Apple never seems to resolve from one release to another.

      Apple in the enterprise, NO THANKS!

      Apple can’t even upgrade iOS which is essentially an unsophisticated, bare bones mobile OS without wreaking havoc in countless applications (iMap, iMail, etc etc etc) each and every time they come out with a new release.

      Apple in the enterprise, what a absolute apocalyptic nightmare of epic proportions!

      • Wayne says:

        Surface Pro? Come on get real (or are you getting payed by Microsoft?). The Surface pro os one of the crapiest tech I have ever encountered. A friend of mine has it and I could use it for a week. And damn typical Windows, what more is there to say. And the tech part of the Surface? I would never waste my money on that piece of tech. And certainly not for the Windows OS. Just typical old microsoft IT techs who grew up on it would advocate for that. Modern forward thinking users won’t even waste a look at the Surface Pro. (As the sales numbers clearly indicate!)

  • George says:

    Using “IMAP, Ismail…” tells me you are dedicated Windows user with zero Mac or iOS knowledge or experience, which means we can safely ignore your contribution (?)
    But thanks anyway.

    • GerryBowsinger says:

      Sorry George, but I think you’re actually confusing IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) with iMap which is Apple’s failed attempt to create a sudo map application to compete with Google map and Bing map.

      Anyways, I humbly accept your acknowledgements and your show of gratitude.

      Remember the Surface Pro 4 is coming soon.

      Don’t forget to buy one.


      🙂 🙂 🙂

  • GerryBowsinger says:

    The word “sudo” should have read “pseudo” …

    Thank you.