This week’s report that Apple may already be in production on a 12.9″ iPad, dubbed the “Pro,” has been the source of much speculation. In a well researched and reasoned post in ComputerWorld, Mike Elgan comes to the conclusion that it will be an “iPad optimized as a desktop touch computer for education,” specifically as reported in DigiTimes, for the U.S. education market. This, he claims, will solve two of Apple’s most pressing goals, “First: How can Apple make iOS the default platform for schools transitioning from paper textbooks and educational materials to electronic ones? Second: How can Apple gently transition the world from desktop PCs to the desktop post-PC world?”
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The main rival here is not Microsoft but Google, whose Chromebooks and Chrome OS devices are similarly angling for the same prized perch. In many ways Chrome is better positioned than iOS because of its primary relationship to the open web. But Google’s track record with hardware has not been stellar, though Chromebooks are starting to come into their own and Amazon reported this week that “two out of its three best-selling laptops during the holiday season were Chromebooks.”
Rather than thinking of the iPad Pro (probably a misnomer) as a big tablet, Elgan suggests “it makes more sense to think of [it as]… next year’s first and smallest iOS desktop computer.” And I would look for a corresponding line of iPens as well. Apple has quite a lineup of patents around this and it would be a very easy way for students to carry some measure of personalization around with them if the 4K tablets are actually bolted to the desks.
If this first larger iPad is designed for inroads into the U.S. education market in advance of larger “desktops” aimed at the consumer and business markets, the 4K thing starts to make more sense. 2K is probably quite sufficient for a 12.9″ tablet, but imagine the 20″ or 27″ touch screens that would replace Apple’s current all-in-one iMacs. 4K (or more) for these would make lots of sense, especially for professionals who need to work on high-resolution technical or creative imagery.
The truth is that if this is where things are going, towards touch desktops, likely on (or swiveling in) the surface of the desk instead of perpendicular to it, there is room for Google and Microsoft—and Samsung too. Assuming that people want to interact with computers in this way, this change of form factor could lead to the wholesale replacement of all the world’s PCs. What a nice forecast for the marginalized computer industry!
Microsoft has been working on very large touchscreen tabletops designed for collaboration and equally well suited to game play once the costs come down. It is clear that with a change of this magnitude there would be many winners, not just Apple. But it does seem that the popularity of the iPad could finally be paving the way for the redefinition of the desktop computer as a touch device.
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