Apple thinks the iPad Pro will replace laptops, but businesses aren’t so sure

by Jeff Wiener on March 28, 2016

mac-os-lion-downloaded-for-moree-than-1-million-times-350x290Since the inception of the modern day tablet in 2010, Apple has dreamt of a world where the iPad—a modestly equipped, reasonably powerful, moderately functional, portable computing platform—would replace the laptop as the chosen business machine, and with last week’s release of the latest iPad Pro, it’s clear that Apple’s dream has not changed.

Current estimates suggest that there are millions upon millions of ugly, antiquated PCs floating around the enterprise landscape (clearly still the dominant computing choice for businesses), with roughly some 600 million of them already over five years old (which in the tech era, might as well be 100 years old). As Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing Philip Schiller bemoaned, the fact that so many old PCs are still being used is truly unfortunate: “This is really sad. It really is,” he said of the current computing landscape.

Instead, businesses should wise up to the fact that PCs were made for a bygone era of computing, and in order to truly embrace this digital age, complete with social networking, cloud computing, and business apps, companies need to get on board with the iPad Pro. The only problem is there are several good reasons why businesses won’t embrace the iPad Pro (or similar mobile tech) en masse; not today, perhaps not ever.

Just before Apple’s most recent event where the revamped iPad Pro was revealed, Carolina Milanesi, chief of research and head of Kantar Worldpanel ComTech US Business, tweeted a very interesting chart, one that estimated the number of older generation iPads still in use in the enterprise sector. Spoiler Alert: there’s a lot.

In fact, the first three generations of iPads still make up over half of all the iPads used in business today, with the original first generation iPad making up over 10% of the total. While it would be interesting to hear what Apple’s Schiller would say about that. But the fact that so many older iPads are still in circulation points to the first reason businesses struggle to get on board with new technology: the cost.

Simply put, since the beginning of time businesses have avoided investment in new ways of doing things if the current ways are “good enough.” If laptops and older model iPads do what companies need them to do, if only incremental upgrades can keep an aging PC operating effectively, well that’s good enough, no need to throw it all out and adopt a new way of doing things.

Not only that, but as Notebook Review’s Jerry Jackson writes in his Apple event analysis:

One of the major reasons that so many old PCs are still in use today is that a 5-year-old PC is still capable of running most of the Windows software that is available today. Try running the current Facebook app for iOS in all its glory on a first-generation iPad … spoiler alert: you can’t.

Product life cycles might not matter to people who can afford to buy a latest device every year. But there are more than 600 million users out there who clearly aren’t buying the newest and most expensive tech. Apple wants [to] gain market share among both education and enterprise clients. Guess which customers tend to hold onto their PCs the longest … education and enterprise clients.

Of course iPad Pro’s really aren’t that much more expensive than laptops, and with their enhanced functionality when it comes to social networking, apps, communication and cloud technologies, perhaps there is a strong reason for businesses to make the switch, which leads me to the second reason companies will continue to avoid the iPad: the fear.

Microsoft has long discovered something that Apple is only beginning to understand: enterprise clients fear change, any sort of change. For years Microsoft has struggled to upgrade business clients from older operating systems to the latest Windows model, just think of how much more difficult it will be to convince wary businesses to switch platforms and machines altogether.

Even as Schiller touts the iPad Pro as the “the ultimate PC replacement” I can’t help but think Apple’s confidence is little more than groundless bluster, aimed more at investors and not clients. Like Apple itself, tablets have never been able to penetrate the enterprise computing market, and even if the iPad Pro is good enough to replace any business computers at all, it will likely only supplant Apple’s own MacBooks, leaving the core of laptop dominance (functionality, affordability, and upgradability) completely untouched.

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