The real iPad Pro problems Apple (and maybe even developers) may be overlooking

I think there's almost a collective feeling of embarrassment when an Apple product flops. Isn't this supposed to be the company that can do no wrong? Well, there was the Apple Cube, the Xserve enterprise gear and a few other misses, but the case of the iPad Pro -- whose fate is still up in the air, I should add -- may be a bit unique.

The Verge and others have been reporting about some disgruntlement among app developers about the relative difficulty of successfully creating professional tools to run on the business-oriented version of its popular tablet line. Here's how The Verge summed up the complaints: 

"One of the common complaints made by software developers who spoke to The Verge is that they can't offer free trials of their apps as part of the App Store download process, or issue paid upgrades to long-term users. Others say that selling apps through the App Store can create a kind of wall between them and their customers if the customers have issues with their software. Broadly speaking, the iPad Pro is forcing them to rethink their monetization strategies."

These are valid concerns, of course, but it may not completely explain why the iPad Pro may fail to gain the kind of traction that Apple's first tablets enjoyed. I think it comes down to two things that Apple, and maybe even developers, have temporarily forgotten: 

A device like the iPad was never originally intended for business users. Like the iPhone and many similar products, they were created with consumers in mind first, but their popularity (based on a great, simple user experience) forced companies to find ways to connect them to the network and offer at least basic functionality like access to e-mail. To refer to the "consumizeration of IT" may sound quaint now, but it's what everyone in business circles was talking about just a few years ago. The fact is, enterprises have already done a lot to make consumer devices work well in their offices. Even if Apple changed its App Store policies, the most likely software you'd see making its way to the iPad Pro would be high-end tools from the likes of SAP, Oracle and Salesforce, not tools from indie shops. Plus, the businesses that offer iPad Pros to their employees are just as likely to want to create their own enterprise app stores, rather than work entirely through the App Store.

Secondly, the success of the iPhone and similar devices has created a choir of believers singing the mantra of "mobile-first" since at least 2011. Although it makes a lot of sense in many cases, it might not be the best approach for a device like the iPad Pro, which Apple has touted as a desktop replacement. In other words, forcing developers to work in iOS for the iPad Pro may be too limiting. This may be a more unique use case, something that requires some kind of OS middle ground (which I'm tempted to call a "tabtop" OS, but won't for fear it might actually catch on).

In any case, I don't think the iPad Pro is necessarily doomed. I just think its appeal will not be based on mobile apps. A larger screen could be a great way to use certain business tools more comfortably, but business software makers have been trying to outdo email as the most popular app for years without success. What businesses (if not business users) care about is better network security, ease of provisioning and configuration. If it doesn't deliver on those fronts, the iPad Pro and its price tag may feel more like a bit of a con. --Shane