June 23, 2017

Does Google need to launch its own version of the iPad Pro?


Earlier this week, Apple officially refreshed its iPad Pro lineup with a new 10.5-inch model along with revamped 12.9-inch version. However, these new large tablets could become even more useful in a few months with the release of iOS 11. Apple will be adding a bunch of productivity-focused features in the next version of its mobile OS, which should make using the iPad Pro models much more attractive for business and enterprise customers.

Having a productivity-oriented tablet is nothing new. Microsoft’s Surface Pro family is definitely a favorite for people who want to get some work done in addition to consuming content. With Apple now throwing its hat into the professional tablet ring, we have to wonder if Google should also jump in with its own pro-centric Android tablet. In this article we will take a look at the pros and cons of Google launching a work-focused Android tablet form factor.

The new iPad Pro tablets and iOS 11

Before we get into this debate, let’s take a quick look at the new iPad Pros and the features they will get with the launch of iOS 11. It’s scheduled to officially roll out sometime this fall after a number of public and private beta releases. Both the new 10.5-inch and the refreshed 12.9-inch models have the 64-bit A10X Fusion chipset inside, with a six-core CPU and a 12-core GPU. The faster chip should be able to handle higher end productivity apps with better performance.

iOS 11 will add iPad-specific features that have normally been available on Apple’s macOS. The biggest addition is a Dock on the bottom of the screen that will allow iPad Pro owners to quickly access highly-used apps on any screen. There will also be new multitasking features that will let users to drag and drop files between apps. Speaking of files, there will be a new app in iOS 11 that will show you all of your files that are either stored locally on your device, or on cloud-based services like iCloud, Box, Dropbox, and others. iOS 11 will also include a redesigned app switcher that will let users quickly bring up two apps on the screen at once, rather than having to launch each one separately.

Of course, since these are iPad Pros, they’ll also be compatible with the Apple Pencil – the company’s $99 stylus that lets you not only take handwritten notes much easier, but also draw with better precision in art applications, sign online documents, and more.

All of these new additions in iOS 11, combined with the new hardware in the iPad Pro models themselves, could open up the tablets to new markets. We could see an increase in its sales once again, after several quarters of sales drops for the iPad.

So, should Google launch a tablet that directly competes with the iPad Pro? Let’s talk about that.

Why Google should launch an iPad Pro competitor

Before we get too far in this discussion, we want to address the fact that Google’s last first-party tablet was the Pixel C, which launched in late 2015. While the tablet did have a large screen and an optional hardware keyboard, it launched with Android 6.0 Marshmallow, which didn’t allow for split-screen multitasking features. On top of that, most Android apps were developed for a smaller phone display, and very few have been optimized to work on a larger tablet screen. As a result, the Pixel C, despite having powerful hardware, was crippled as a productivity tablet by its software.

The Pixel C, despite having powerful hardware, was crippled as a productivity tablet by its software

However, we know that Google has made improvements in Android 7.0 Nougat when it comes to multitasking, and if it were to develop a new high-end tablet with a large screen, it could also get many developers to optimize their Android apps to work on a larger display.

Perhaps the biggest reason for Google to launch a productivity tablet is because of Android’s massive reach in smartphones. Business and enterprise workers who already use Android phones would be an easy market to tap, for instance. It will also likely be easy for those same people to share files between their Android smartphones and tablets.

Why Google shouldn’t launch an iPad Pro competitor

On the other hand, there’s the argument that Google already has a productivity-themed platform in place: Chrome OS. Yes, the good old-fashioned laptop form factor is still a preferred one for many business and enterprise workers. Chrome OS, combined with the many third-party Chromebooks that are now out in the marketplace, may be a better way for Google to enter the work market rather than a tablet device.

There’s also the fact that Google and its third-party partners continue to add Android app support for Chromebooks. While that progress has taken longer than expected, it’s only a matter of time before all new Chromebooks start supporting Android apps. This could lead to more acceptance of Chromebooks in the workplace (they are already taking a huge market share away from Windows notebooks in the US education market).

There’s the very real question if productivity tablets will be successful in the first place

Finally, there’s the very real question if productivity tablets will be successful in the first place. Yes, Microsoft’s Surface Pro lineup have seen solid sales, but many owners choose to purchase the tablet with its optional Type Cover, which means it’s more of a laptop than a tablet. Windows itself is centered on laptop and desktop-based user interfaces. It remains to be seen if Apple’s iOS 11 refinements for the new iPad Pro models will be used or ignored.

Conclusion: let’s wait and see

The truth is there’s no reason why Google should jump in and release a new Android productivity tablet just because Apple is coming out with one. The jury is still in session on how successful these new iPad Pro tablets will be, combined with iOS 11. Google would be wise to just sit tight and see what happens with Apple’s relaunch of the iPad Pro.

Google would be wise to just sit tight and see what happens with Apple’s relaunch of the iPad Pro

If these new productivity features in iOS 11 turn out to be a bust, Google could learn from Apple’s mistakes and perhaps jump in and create a tablet that will really be of use to business customers. Even if the iPad Pro is indeed successful in carving a niche in that market, Google could also move pretty quickly and answer Apple’s product with one of its own.

Meanwhile we want to hear from you on this debate. Should Google launch an Android productivity tablet? If so, why? Or should Google stay out of this market and concentrate on other Android and Chrome OS devices? Let us know what you think in the comments!

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