Apple doesn't make a nod to small business too often. There are obviously devices you can use, like a MacBook and an iPhone, to do real work, but the gadgets also appeal to consumers, students, and kids. They tend to be general-purpose devices anyone can use.

At an event today in San Francisco, Apple announced one of the most business-centric devices it has ever created. The new iPad Pro is a powerful, 12.9-inch tablet that runs high-end business-class apps. It feels almost as if Apple skipped over some of the usual specs--the tablet is fast, lasts 10 hours, and is almost as thin as the iPad Air 2. The company's event moved quickly to app demos from (gasp) Microsoft (showing a powerful version of Word) and Adobe (showing a new app called Photoshop Fix for retouching images).

The new iPad Pro has two accessories every business user will love. There's a new Smart Keyboard that has slightly raised keys for fast typing--they mimic what you will find on a MacBook. For airport dwellers, it means doing real work anywhere. The keyboard snaps onto the tablet using a magnet. There's also a new stylus called the Apple Pencil that adjusts automatically depending on pressure and angle. It's a boon for those taking notes at a meeting.

The iPad Pro is a major productivity booster. It's big enough to type documents using a large soft keyboard, and fast enough to run desktop-class apps. The stylus is ideal for taking notes and drawing out plans during meetings and business trips. It's a game changer for business, because it means you can stay productive without having to lug around a laptop. The everyday business apps are powerful: You can add charts to a document and edit photos on a display large enough to see what you're doing. For the iPad Pro 32GB version, you will pay $799. The Pencil costs $99 and the Smart Keyboard, $169. All of the new products will be available this November.

Now, it's important to note here that a large, desktop-class tablet is not exactly a new product segment. The Microsoft Surface Pro 3 is also a 12-inch tablet with a stylus. It costs $899 and weighs 1.7 pounds; the iPad Pro weighs 1.57 pounds, so they have some similarities. And both the Surface Pro 3 and the iPad Pro use a smart keyboard cover and a stylus. There's no way to know which device will fit best into the context of small business until we get a chance to compare them side by side. The Surface Pro 3 is not quite as clunky as it was before, now that you can use Windows 10 as the operating system and not deal with the confusion of Windows 8.

Will you buy the iPad Pro? I'm curious about your view--post in comments or email me.

Published on: Sep 9, 2015
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