Analysis: The iPad Pro and iPhone SE have clear appeals for business.
Roughly six months after launching the high-end iPhone 6S, a premium addition to the iPhone 6 generation with a range of new technologies, Apple yesterday staged another event with a somewhat different theme: smaller and cheaper.
Alongside Tim Cook’s affirmation of the company’s commitment to protecting its customers’ privacy and the company trumpeting its record on renewable energy and recycling, the company released a smaller iPhone called the iPhone SE (its cheapest ever) and a smaller iPad Pro.
The event came soon after rival Samsung‘s launch of the S7 and the outlining of a new enterprise-focused organisation.
Apple’s enterprise strategy is slightly less clear-cut than Samsung’s, and requires reading between the lines of some of the headline announcements.
One indication of where Apple’s enterprise strategy was looking was provided by Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president, who described the iPad Pro as "the ultimate PC replacement".
The ability of mobile devices to replace desktop PCs has been a consistent theme in the device market. Microsoft has marketed the Surface Pro 4 as "the tablet that can replace your laptop".
HP has also been targeting this market with the Elite x3, which is a smartphone designed to be used as a portable CPU that can be connected to desktop and laptop set-ups.
Olly Berry, Mubaloo’s Head of iOS, says that Schiller’s statement "echoes a shift we are seeing where tablets are recognised more as business devices."
Berry says that the 9.7 inch-tablet is ideally sized for enterprise use, as field agents will be able to use it to complete tasks on the move. He says that the lower price point compared to the larger original iPad Pro would also be a key selling point.
He adds that the addition of multi-user support in education could also eventually be applied in the enterprise.
"For businesses this could mean field workers using shared devices, making the iPad a much more desirable tool in the workplace," Beery said.
Colin Reid, CEO of TotalMobile, said that healthcare would be a key application for the new devices, predicting that the NHS would deploy thousands of the devices within the next year.
Frontline healthcare workers "now have a mid-sized tablet with market leading digital pen technology available, which means they can record signatures for compliance reasons with a stylus," he said.
"The old days of filling in multiple paper forms can hopefully be consigned to the waste paper bin of history," said Reid.
"For example, district nurses can now get patients to sign the tablet with Apple Pencil, rather than signing forms on bits of paper, lugging kilos back to the hospital, then scanning those forms in."
As a side note, Apple is supporting a healthcare drive with new partnerships with medical organisations, including John Hopkins University and Stanford Medicine. These partners will be able to develop apps to help patients monitor their symptoms and care.
Pricing for the 32GB version of the smaller iPad Pro starts at $599, while the 128GB and a 256GB models will cost $749 and $899 respectively. Pre-orders will begin on 24 March and the device will ship 31 March.
The launch of the new iPad Pro comes after September’s event introduced the Apple Pencil, a stylus which targets designers and engineers.
Tim Cook presenting at yesterday’s Apple event.
As for the new iPhone, Berry says that it will provide a more affordable smartphone for "businesses looking to equip their workforce with fully featured iPhones."
The smaller device claims to offer some fundamentals that may appeal to businesses: faster LTE and wi-fi speeds and better battery life.
Perhaps most significantly, it will also carry the Apple brand’s reputation for security that has made it more popular than Android in the enterprise.
The 16GB model is priced at $399, and the 64GB one at $499.
Of less significance to enterprises, but still potentially important, was the lowering of the price of the Apple Watch.
In terms of software, there were no huge overhauls. The update to iOS has patched some critical security fixes, always of paramount concern to enterprises.
A vulnerability in iMessage that could have allowed hackers to decrypt and view photos and videos sent over the service was discovered by researchers at John Hopkins University and was patched in the update.
Notes can now be secured by Touch ID, which will be useful to workers who have to record sensitive information on the go.
There are several key take-aways for businesses, then, and the cheaper devices may win the consumer giant some new commercial customers.