Sunday, March 02, 2014

The iOS Pro market

Since the iPad was released in 2010 the tablet market has grown so quickly that it is now almost as big as the PC market. Meanwhile the PC market is collapsing as people in developed markets sweat their existing devices longer, while those in developing markets skip straight to tablets. 

The natural question is, just how far into PC territory can tablets extend? Initially they were seen as for content consumption only, not for creation, and as for secondary work devices not primary ones. I don't believe either of these conditions will hold. 

However there is one problem that current tablets can't overcome - the screens are simply too small for much work. The type of detailed office-based work involving comparing multiple documents side by side, or editing masses of data, simply doesn't work on a 10 inch screen. This may be a smaller proportion of work that people would have guessed five years ago but there are tens of millions of people globally employed in jobs involving work like this - software developers, architects, accountants, and so on. 

I'm sure that Apple realise this, which makes their recent huge investment in iOS features for enterprise fascinating. If Apple are really targeting the enterprise, do they have plans for larger screen iOS devices?

There have been rumours for several months that Apple will release a 12-13 inch 'iPad Pro'. Such a device would surely help close the gap and extend the iOS ecosystem and applications further into enterprise territory for a few years. But I still don't think that this will be enough to take the enterprise market. 

Which brings me to 4k monitors. This year's CES tech fair introduced us to the first reasonably priced (sub $800) large screen monitors with quadruple HD resolution. 

Place this horizontally (or slightly banked) onto a desk, add a touchscreen and you have a much stronger contender for an office-based device. These desk tablets could range from 24 inches all the way up to 60 inches, which is about how far you can comfortably reach when sitting. 

These desk tablets would run a version of iOS, since that is Apple's operating system for touch screens. It would come with the same iOS App Store as iPads but would clearly need a revised user interface including window tiling. And it would be the first challenger to the PC with mouse/keyboard for 'real work'.

A true 'Pro' strategy for Apple has to consider bringing the benefits of touch screens to office based, not just mobile work. And to work by bringing more professionals and app developers to iOS with the iPad.