Apple’s new iPad Pro with Pencil and keyboard cover is a killer combo for a wide range of business users, from IBM’s enterprise customers to Apple’s devotional creative and technical markets. The artsy drawings witnessed during the event yesterday – and viewable on the Apple Pencil video here – will no doubt speak to the creatives Apple has always had in markets like graphics, publishing, architecture, photography and so forth.
Yet, Apple would be foolish to think that the iPad Pro can fight-off the lingering threat of Microsoft’s well-executed Surface Pro devices by just focusing on a duel between tablets. The inter-connected threat of Windows running on the desktop needs to be relentlessly kept in focus.
Exhibit 1 – The AEC Market
The architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) market is easily the largest prime example of the value proposition in field-based computing that the tablet computer aims to address. From the onset of the original iPad, Apple’s popular devices suddenly began to show up on the construction site for one clear, undeniably superior purpose—they could hold every single blueprint drawing in existence on a project and then some with ease.
Carrying around drawings on construction sites has always been a pain-point in AEC workflows; they are large, cumbersome, and tear and fade in the sun easily. They are terribly immobile for individual workers, who must return to central points like contractor trailers or plan tables to get the data they need for particular points on a building.
So it should not surprise anyone to hear that the iPad became a hit in the construction industry overnight. And the proof is in the amazing set of top-leading iOS apps that serve the AEC market at all levels. Software giant Autodesk is the undisputed market share leader in AEC software on the desktop and it quickly amassed a robust set of iOS apps for serving these same workflows.
In fact, Autodesk’s AutoCAD 360 was prominently noted in yesterday’s iPad Pro presentation, a clear endorsement of Apple’s leading iPad devices and their use in AEC.
iPad Pro as Creative Powerhouse for Architects
Architects too have utilized the iPad from the get-go but not at the rate penetration as construction professionals. While general contractors quickly seized upon mobile apps, like those coming from Bluebeam Software, a company used by more than 75 percent of the largest general contractors in the United States, architects have taken their time and longed for killer solutions that addressed their unique needs.
From our intensive discussions with architects around the world, one of the things architects have wanted the iPad to do from the beginning was the ability to sketch and draw on it at the level of paper. Finally with the new Apple Pencil architects will have the tool they have been waiting for. The new iPad Pro with Pencil has quickly grabbed the attention of architectural media, with the editors at ArchDaily calling the iPad Pro a “game changer.”
And builders like to sketch too, and so do engineers, so the iPad Pro with Pencil is destined to play well to the second largest industry on the planet, the global AEC industry.
The Surface Pro versus iPad Pro—A War Looming in AEC
Despite Apple’s head-start leadership in tablet computing in the global AEC space, and despite its new iPad Pro with Pencil, the company has its work cut out for it defending its place in this giant industry.
Even before the first Surface Pro shipped, some of the award-winning developers in the iOS space we spoke to considered next step development options that put Microsoft ahead of all other competitors (e.g.: Android). Yet other developers, such as Graebert of Germany, consider Android, with its dominance in emerging markets and popularity in Asian, strategically more beneficial than even Apple iOS.
The short of this is that Apple, even with the new iPad Pro, will have to fight hard to maintain its leadership in large-scale mobile markets like AEC.
At this present moment, on an app based level, Apple’s iOS has vastly superior tools available for more markets, including AEC. Yet, an advantage that Microsoft has with Surface Pro 3 is that it can run native Windows applications themselves. The iPad Pro doesn’t run native Mac OS X applications. It can be setup to run desktop applications via virtualized scenarios wherein it connects to servers or desktops running those apps someplace else.
Without Strong Mac Tools, iPad Pro is for Naught
The iPad Pro with Pencil and its keyboard is a stunning device with desktop power. It can easily go toe-to-toe with the Surface Pro 3. However, for it to win in critical larger markets like AEC Apple must not forget the interrelatedness of desktop systems and their impact on purchase decisions.
If an architecture firm is running a mixture of Macs and PCs in their environment, chances are very good that the company will adopt, encourage and integrate the iPad Pro with Pencil into its workflows. If a large construction company is running mostly PCs on the desktop and a mixture of Macs in mobile for executives and field workers, chances are still very good it will leverage the iOS’s leadership and utilize iPad Pro with Pencil in its workflows.
However, if Apple’s Macs start retreating from the environments they have made significant ground in, then the Surface Pro devices will begin to gain an intractable upper-hand. And the iPad Pro will be for naught!
The bottom line is Apple must not forget the power of network effects, which have more to do with inter-related software benefits. They are more powerful than the famous Apple halo effect.
Mac Pro Markets
The iPad Pro stands to gain insomuch as the Mac continues to gain ground in SMBs (small to medium businesses) and enterprises. Just as importantly, the creative side of the iPad Pro with Pencil serves the ball to the creative audience that has always been a Mac mainstay. Apple must keep growing its Mac market in tandem with its efforts to expand the market for the iPad line. If it doesn’t, it will not matter how many airlines adopt iPads if dozens of large construction companies replace iPad Air 2’s with Surface Pro 3’s.