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Replace an older Windows PC? No! Augment it with an iPad Pro

That was the somewhat controversial remark tossed out during the 9.7-inch iPad Pro — a.k.a. #babypro — launch back in March. The topic was left hanging just a bit, so I'll offer my thoughts on how Apple might explain why an iPad Pro might be the best upgrade from an old Windows PC.

First, that old Windows PC isn't totally obsolete. It's probably good enough for most basic PC tasks and functions. It's really not an iPad vs. PC question. It's simply how to be the most capable and efficient with the resources and budget you have at your disposal.

Second, a Windows 10 PC might be a downgrade, with a steep learning curve for Windows 7 customers invested in Windows 7 applications and knowledge. Of course, there are new Windows 10 apps but those require re-purchasing, re-learning, and are still few and far between — especially compared to iOS. For people still on Windows XP, released in 2001, even more so.

So why go iPad Pro?

What makes iPad Pro a compelling device for Windows PC customers?

  • Productivity: I find iPad makes me productive and more capable. It's a force multiplier for the PC (or Mac) and phone I already own.
  • Time: 80% of what I need to do on a PC, I can do on an iPad with greater ease and flexibility. The result is more time returned to me.
  • Apps: iPad, with the largest collection of tablet-optimized apps, unlocks new capabilities and functionality not available on a PC or a phone. That's a key. A tablet that lacks a great selection of optimized apps isn't much of a tablet.
  • Availability: iPad is totally portable, always available, and I get a full ten hours of battery life from it. For me, it's been the perfect device for the living room, the boardroom, and many places in between.

Content Consumption and Creation: The Baby

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro display breaks new ground in terms of adapting to lighting conditions with True Tone, adding "depth" to color with a cinematic DCI-P3 gamut. It's the perfect display for creating as well as consuming content. Add in apps such as Garage Band, iMovie, and iWork, and you have a complete productivity device ready to go "out of the box".

(There's even a full touch enabled version of Microsoft Office that works on the BabyPro with no Office 365 subscription needed — something you don't even get on a Surface.)

Bottom line: the iPad Pro is more than just a pretty rose gold face. It's a logical and compelling upgrade from an old Windows PC that can live with it in harmony, not necessarily be replaced by it.

I’ve covered the personal technology beat for more than two decades at places like Gartner, Jupiter Research and Altimeter Group. I’ve also had the fun of contributing my $.02 on the topic at Computerworld, Engadget, Macworld, SlashGear and now iMore. Most recently I spent a few years at Apple as Sr. Director of Worldwide Product Marketing. On Twitter I’m an unverified @gartenberg. I still own some Apple stock.

41 Comments
  • ...or you could just install a Linux distro on that old Windows PC. Since Linux allows you to pick and choose a window manager or desktop environment that best suits your habits and hardware, all one needs to do is some reading, and Linux documentation is easily found online these days. A days work, and no money spent (aside from the cost of the thumbdrive or CD you're putting the bootable ISO on), and as long as you're not into anything intensive like photo/video editing or gaming, you should have something good enough for a few more years of use. Might even last you longer than the 3 - 4 years of iOS updates a typical iPad is good for. Good for your budget, good for the environment, and you also get to make Schiller look like a pompous prig who thinks everyone can afford to share in his first world highly paid exec problems, not that he needed much help with that.
  • Honestly, there would be a much bigger learning curve going from a Desktop Class OS, to a mobile OS. People who have those older PC's are very used to a mouse and keyboard friendly OS, which the iPad (or any tablet for that matter) is a "touch first" kind of OS. On top of that, the Microsoft Office Suite would still be easier to use on another laptop because, again, the mouse and keyboard factor. So, in the end, the Surface would still be their best bet. W10 would have a much smaller learning curve than going to an iPad, even if they aren't completely familiar with it. EDIT: I'm trying to figure out who wrote this article. It gives Rene's name, but Michael's banner is across the top. The nature of this article causes me to guess Rene, but Michael also worked for Apple, so it's kinda hard to tell... Posted with the Nexus 6, Nexus 5, or Surface Pro 3
  • Hmmm. I am still wondering what professional work can be done on an iPad pro? I mean, I have the 9.7 iPad Pro 128 and It is good for checking mail and surfing web pages for references. I have Mac and PC laptops and Windows workstations. Any serious work I do on the iPad is a monumental pain in the **** to get it back over to my computers. Yes, I use dropbox/box/google drive and still it's just a pain in the **** so I don't use the iPad. Usually I am coding or drawing/designing in 3D/CAD. iPad sucks at coding as there are no IDEs for iPad (wouldn't use them if there were, too little screen real estate). Forget 3D/CAD on iOS. Too restrictive. Maybe I should just sell it.
  • Thats it, people with ancient PCs don't do any of that, they check their e-mail, write a note, surf the web...pretty much it. They haven't updated, because to them, there is no need. With any new device, they'd still do the same.
  • So if their machines can avail the Windows 10 upgrade, for the sake of continued support, I think they should just update to Windows 10.
  • It's up to the user. Some old-school users might think keeping their original purchase for the longest time is the best, that's how they were taught, what they know. They will update and update and continue to update–usually through their kids or grandkids–and use it for basic things, surfing and e-mailing. It is usually those kids and grandkids that buy them a tablet, whichever the brand or type when the updating becomes a bother.
  • Who wrote this crap? Rene or Michael? I can't tell because both are credited with it. Also I'm still trying to decipher that headline. Do you even proof read. Replace a Windows PC with an iPad Pro I guess you could. But why would a Windows user want to spend all the money on an iPad when they can get a very good Windows PC that does what they want for less. Sent from the iMore App
  • Many people want a desktop/notebook and an iPad. The iPad Pro can do everything comfortably that a PC/Mac can do except downloading torrents, coding, serious pro work etc. Also, when you're done typing out an email, editing a video/picture, sending an iMessage, you still have an iPad for reading/watching content. Sent from the iMore App
  • "80% of what I need to do on a PC, I can do on an iPad with greater ease and flexibility." Pretty stupid statement. This isn't even true, but even if it was, why would you want something that can only do 80% of what you need it to do? Even netbooks weren't this bad. The best days are clearly behind the author. From an apple exec to writing ***** articles at an apple fan blog. That's pretty embarrassing.
  • Because iPad makes that 80% far better, faster, with more intuitive GUI, more battery life and more portability. Netbooks??? LOL How can you compare netbooks with ipads in user experience....
    I guess you never really used an iPad.
  • I have the Asus Transformer and I know I could have gotten an iPad; instead I bought this netbook. It's great for basic use and the interface is also 'flashy' like the iPad.
  • So going from Windows 7 to Windows 10 requires repurchasing and relearning apps so...go from Windows 7 to iOS??? Because that won't?
  • I'm pretty confused by this statement too – there are no differences whatsoever in the apps that run on Windows 7 and those that run on Windows 10. Upgrading from XP isn't really possible, sure, but the Windows 7-10 upgrade is the most painless out there – and I don't imagine you'd have to rebuy any but the oldest apps. Microsoft have made a few mistakes with Windows 10, but compatibility and upgrading generally weren't among the list. There's plenty of reasons to replace an ageing Windows PC with an iPad of some description – my mother ditched her Windows laptop for an iPad years ago and will never go back – but it's not for everyone.
  • Yup, my thoughts exactly. Don't get me wrong, I love my iPad Air 2 and I do use it as my main device. But there's a reason I still have a MacBook Pro as well. The iPad is by no means a complete PC replacement.
  • The implied idea being that learning iOS and all related apps is exceptionally simple. Thus a lower/smaller/easier learning curve vs the exceedingly difficult Win7 to Win10 transition. Either way there is a learning curve but the path to Apple is the path of least resistence. I think that argument has far too many variables to be considered always true as it was written (though it surely is in certain use cases) but that's not the point.
  • LOL no. No file system access sucks for those who truly want to be productive. Posted from my Nexus 6P
  • I find that, even on my MacBook Air, I don't have enough hard disk space to store everything. Why not store on iCloud Drive, Dropbox or Google Drive? With these last two, you can have any file system you want, and everything is always backed up.
  • Articles that use anecdotal evidence are more common than flies at a poop fest.
    Learning curve: I don't
    use Windows but for about 5% of my computing. The only learning I had to do with windows 10 was how to efficiently load apps. The other thing I learned was to only use it when I had to. Touch interfaces can be tricky for people imbued with a traditional desktop experience. My feeling is that the learning curve is a wash. A modern computer (no matter what type) has an extraordinary shelf life. We're not to the point where general computing tasks outrun hardware from the last 5 years. Typically, upgraded hardware is needed when the software can't be updated for security reasons.
  • I was really surprised at how much I can do with my baby pro. The keyboard and pencil practically replace most of what I used to have to take on a long commute via public transportation to school. I love that I can keep my textbooks on it, take notes on it, and write papers. Excellent tool for students! Sent from the iMore App
  • That depends on what you're studying. If you're in K-12, Chromebooks MIGHT suffice. Even in higher ed, it still depends on what you're studying.
  • Steep learning curve moving from Win 7 to 10? If that would be a problem then they absolutely should move to an IOS device. However, for the vast majority I would think such a transition would easily accomplished. Far as apps, virtually anything that worked on 7 will run on 10. Look, I use quite a few Apple products (And Windows products). It never ceases to amaze me why OS centric writers find it necessary to impugn the OS they don't use. Tell me why I should use A - don't tell me why I should not use B. It's kind of like arguing about cars or Pepsi/Coke. People have preferences - so be it.
  • There is a term to refer to this kind of people - fanatic Posted from my Samsung Galaxy S6
  • Yes Windows 7 to Windows 10 is a steep learning curve at least for me as I can barely use Windows 10 properly, (I plan on moving to Mac as I'm sick of Windows and Microsoft)I've always loved using the iPad and if you look at the review of the iPad Pro 9.7 Inches then you'd realise you can get a lot of things done on the baby iPad Pro, it just depends on what you're doing. But you can definitely edit videos on the iPad Pro though. Sent from the iMore App
  • Nice try. ;-)
    Marketing only. Don't forget: an iPad isn't a sovereign device!
    It needs iTunes for a secure (!!!) backup without any cloud. I would miss the connection to my external hard disk drives with all the storaged data! How can I save my work on my own hdd at home? And another knockout argument for seriously better work on iPad (Pro):
    No access to the file system. The moment this is all possible I go asap to my Apple Store and buy the biggest version with 4G modem and keyboard with German key layout.
    Oh, sorry, I have forgotten that Apple sells the US layout only. Aaaargh! Too bad, technical design and marketing fail. Double error. :-( So I "must" use my lovely iPad nano formerly known as ...
    Apple iPhone 6s Plus. ;-))
    ... of course together with my Sony VAIO Notebook and Windows 7 Pro where iTunes runs smooth and reliable. :) Sent from the iMore App
  • > that old Windows PC is </> probably good enough for most basic PC tasks and functions. I've never been able to regard any Windows PC good enough for most basic PC tasks and functions, due to the horrific OS interface you're stuck with in any version. It degrades everything. The only way would be to build your own UI, where all hints to the underlying Windows are eliminated. Samsung BTW does a stellar job at this on their X-ray machine workstations, but in general that isn't feasible. So for now many of us are stuck with desktop/laptop machines, where I think we'll see a landslide move from Win to Mac in the coming years. Tablets (meaning iPads) will continue to do more and more of the tasks that are better suited to them than to desktops and laptops. Steve Jobs was right about the trucks thing ;-).
  • There are still websites that don't work well with mobile or IOS. Like some of the websites from my job. I would still need a PC or Mac to run their sites. Sent from the iMore App
  • Examples?
  • Moving from windows 7 to windows 10 is a steep learning curve compared to moving from windows 7 to an ipad?? In what universe does that make any sense
  • If the iPad Pro was called the "iPad Plus," I wouldn't be upset when I see stuff like this. But since this is being pitched as a professional product, I think that in most ways, it fails. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Whoever wrote this needs to put down the crack pipe and check himself into rehab. Now. Sent from the iMore App
  • Or, buy the i3 version of Dell's XPS 13. Does more for less.
  • Or I can just replace it at a fraction of the cost. Yeah, I'll do that. Sent from the iMore App
  • Stupidity at it best. You pay more to downgrade for a device that is less (Except look better)? What is less in iPad pro to a PC laptop:
    1. Lack of usb port. No access to external storage for file transfer.
    2. Lack of HDMI/VGA port, can't connect to a projector.
    3. Lack of mouse support. Which slow down productivity.
    4. Mobile class browser is just not there yet when comparing to desktop class browser.
    5. The keyboard smart cover is badly designed that the iPad can only stand at 1 angle and it wobble!!!
    6. Multitasking in iOS is a PIA compare to Windows/Mac. You don't compare an expansive toy to a real tool that do real thing (Not just browsing and emailing). Posted from my Samsung Galaxy S6
  • The iPad Pro can help with certain things but it can't replace a full desktop PC or Mac. The iPad Pro is companion device to complement other Apple products that one might own. Sent from the iMore App
  • You can: 1. Check e-mail.
    2. Write Documents.
    3. Present Documents.
    4. Use Citrix or Skype for a vitual meeting space.
    5. Edit photos.
    6. Do online banking.
    7. Watch or listen to anything (you tube, amazon, itunes).
    8. Browser can display non-mobile version of a web site (if you haven't noticed there is a function that allows you to see. You cannot code on it. So if you are a Developer, yes it will not replace a laptop, but for anything else. Not so stupid.
  • It all depends on the needs and what you do on PC, for some people it will be 50%, for some 100%. I switched as a student from old MAcBook Air 11 to iPad Pro 12.9 two weeks ago, and I don't look back. I can leave home without a charger, making notes to PDFs in full scale without the need of printing them is a huge relief, using high quality apps instead of web is refreshing. Having LTE I'm always connected regardless wifi access, there are so many major and minor factors making the whole experience easier and more enjoyable on the iPad. What's funny is that if not the whole 'iPad PC replacement' discussion I wouldn't even dare to try it.
  • I'm hoping that the iPad Pro is a case of the hardware coming first, and the software catching up. Most apps contain subset of the features their PC version have... even Apple's apps. I like the idea of using an iPad for everything but the most intensive of programs (CAD, GIS, video editing, etc.). But I don't want a neutered version of the software on a "Pro" device. Even iTunes has features I can't access on an iPad. Until the software feature sets catch up, it isn't a laptop replacement.
  • This article makes sense for light users of PC. iPad does 90% things better than a PC for a light user. I own an iPad Pro 9.7 and have never loved a device or have been so impressed by it just like the iPad Pro. I am mostly a light user that is why I use the iPad Pro more; but when I do need the screen real state and power, I use my MacBook Pro 15". I am a photography enthusiast and edit a lot of photos. iPad is the most ideal device for me to edit Photos. I got an iPad Pro after I tried MacBook Air 11.6", Lenovo yoga 700 and surface 3 (non pro) but returned them all and now settled with iPad Pro 9.7 with the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil. Ideal for me on the go! Sent from the iMore App
  • Now here is someone who has no idea that there's a big difference between journalism and marketing.
  • I just don't get the economics on this one. If all you want is email, reading, games, basically non-productivity, you can go a LOT cheaper than IPP. If you want a filled out "Pro" experience, then the decked out IPP is going to cost a s much as a good 2-in-1 that could REPLACE the outdated PC. So, please explain again where this makes sense except as a marketing promotion for IPP.
  • Stupidest article ever. Now I am sure Apple is paying you guys.