Making the case for a large Apple 'iPad Pro'

Should Apple build a larger iPad for the professional crowd? I think it's a necessary evolution of the tablet.

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A large iPad would find a sizable market niche. Screen capture/Brooke Crothers

If Apple doesn't build a large, professional tablet, then the Android and the Windows camps will. Oh wait, they already are building them.

Samsung has the Android-powered 12.2-inch Galaxy Note Pro and HP has the 13.3-inch Spectre x2 Windows tablet, among other large tablets. These are aimed squarely at the productivity crowd, meaning people who are looking to do serious work, not watch movies.

That crowd includes me. While everyone's needs are different, I can say my work needs are definitely not met by the iPad (an Air, in my case). So, here's why I think Apple needs to build a larger, professional "iPad Pro." (Let me reemphasize this is my experience. I'm obviously not speaking for everyone.)

Despite its 64-bit A7 processor and an overhauled iOS, I find that the iPad chokes on light productivity. For example, if I'm using a publishing app, like a CMS, and I multitask by jumping around between tabs, the publishing app page is -- more often than not -- gone when I go back. The Air just doesn't have enough system memory (1GB) to hold on to it. This makes multitasking slow since the page has to be refreshed, which sometimes does, and sometime doesn't, bring back the data.

I should also mention -- possibly related -- that the Google Chrome browser often inexplicably crashes on my Air. Yes, I do prefer Chrome (for a lot of reasons), thank you.

Finally, the display is too small: 9.7-inches does not leave enough space for both the content and a virtual keyboard. Yes, I could use one of the dozens of keyboard docks out there. But what's the point of a keyboard dock if the Air can't handle the productivity stuff I throw at it anyway?

Which brings us to larger tablets and the rumored iPad Pro, thought to be a 12.9-inch design. Just about right, in my opinion.

I've spent some time with the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2. Its 1.9GHz quad-core Exynos processor and 3GB of RAM make real multitasking, four active windows, possible (though not perfect). The large screen also makes productivity stuff easier. For example, the virtual keyboard is less intrusive, leaving more screen space for seeing content.

I'm more qualified to speak about the the Surface Pro 2 -- which I've spent a lot of time with. It has none of the iPad's shortcomings mentioned above. That is, Windows 8.1 and the Intel Haswell processor allow it to do pretty much everything you can do on a laptop. The drawback to Surface is a relatively small screen, 10.6 inchs, and relative heft, 2 pounds. I can live with a little more heft because even 2 pounds is still a lot less than even the lightest laptops.

So, you ask, why not just use a laptop like the 11.6-inch MacBook Air or Sony Vaio Pro 11?

First off, price. I already own a pricey (and fairly lightweight) laptop and would prefer not to invest in another laptop. More to the point, I need a tablet as a reliable second -- a backup , if you will -- device for doing work. Plus, I like tablets, a lot. You can use them instantly wherever you are. They're lighter than laptops, and they come with mobile broadband built in. Tablets also have gorgeous high-resolution displays and boast killer battery life, among other reasons.

So Apple, get to work on that iPad Pro. With Microsoft Office for iPad available now, I think it would have a lot more takers than you think.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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