Apple Lures the Enterprise with the iPad Pro, Uses Office as the Bait

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Kirk Koenigsbauer takes the stage at Apple’s keynote

Apple held its keynote this week where it announced a myriad of products and one such device, the iPad Pro, is targeted at productivity focused individuals. What was notable about the announcement of the device is that when the company showed it off, they had Microsoft on stage to highlight the capabilities of Office on the iPad Pro and not iWork.

Apple has been trying for years to get its products entrenched deeper into the enterprise. While the iPhone has resonated well with consumers who use these phones as both personal and work devices, the iPad has not had as strong of adoption in the corporate world which is why Apple has teamed up with Cisco (and IBM) to help improve the experience.

One sign that Apple has conceded that Microsoft Is winning the productivity game is that when it announced the iPad Pro, Microsoft was on-stage showing off its Office suite, not Apple showing off the capabilities of its iWork products.

This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise as companies around the world are using Office and Apple knows that if they want their hardware to be used, they need it to work well with the most widely used productivity suite on the planet. What’s unique about this is that based on the demonstration, Apple let Microsoft see its new hardware before it was announced to begin improving its apps for this size of a device which is interesting on several fronts.

First, Apple and Microsoft have been at odds over the years about software and hardware but with Microsoft now being on stage at the company’s keynote (Microsoft was also on stage at VMware) it shows that their relationship is improving. Also, Microsoft and Apple do compete directly on hardware as well, the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro line are now fighting for the same dollars.

Inevitably, the Surface Pro 3 (soon to be Pro 4) and the iPad Pro will be cross-shopped as the prices of the devices are comparable. An iPad Pro starts at $799 plus a keyboard cover for $169 and a Pencil (Apple’s version of the stylus) for another $99, for a total of $1067; for comparison the entry level Surface Pro 3 runs $799 plus $129 for the keyboard cover for a total of $928.

While Apple is hoping that the iPad Pro will be adopted into the enterprise with its productivity focus (they also had Adobe on stage showing off artistic capabilities) they will be facing tough competition from Microsoft. The big difference between the two is that the Pro 3 runs Windows 10 versus Apple’s iOS based iPad Pro; the iPad Pro does not have any external ports either.

Microsoft has, for the better part of its existence, been a software only company, and while Apple may be a competing company, if they are pushing Microsoft’s Office suite on their productivity device, it’s a win for the Redmond based company.

The iPad Pro and Surface Pro will cross streams in the minds of consumers but unless a corporation is heavily invested into the iOS ecosystem, the Surface Pro line looks to offer a better value on nearly all fronts.

At Build 2015, Microsoft announced that they wanted to build bridges, while the topic was targeted at developers, it’s also clear that they are building bridges to other companies as well. Apple and VMware are two massive companies who are warming up again to Microsoft and its software, something that seemed unthinkable only a few short years ago.