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Is Apple Pushing iPads Again?

Now despite the fact that Mac sales are stable, and the iPhone is growing again, the iPad has remained a drag on Apple’s numbers. Profits are surely high, but sales keep dropping, quarter after quarter, after reaching a peak in 2013.

The main question is why? Were iPads disappointing to all those millions of people who bought them? Or did they just decide that it made no sense to upgrade every year or two, so we have many keeping them three or four years before choosing to upgrade.

But if there’s going to be an upgrade cycle, it’s not here yet, or maybe tablets are yesterday’s news.

From time to time, Microsoft puts up an ad meant to show why a Surface is better than a Mac or iPad.

Well, appears Apple has decided to return the favor with short ads extolling the virtues of an iPad Pro. So in demonstrating the advantages over a Windows machine, the ads explain that you can get them with LTE data access. Another advantage, that the iPad doesn’t get viruses.

The ads reportedly take actual Tweets from PC users that evidently express a falsehood about the iPad, and use the ad to disprove the claim. One ad deals with Apple’s famous, or infamous, walled garden, illustrating how easy it is to download Microsoft Word from the iOS App Store.

Now the ads are clearly targeted towards social media, a way to reach younger people who might be potential iPad Pro buyers. If successful, and it is likely part of a larger campaign, it may help boost sales to new customers. Remember that Apple depends heavily on people migrating from other platforms. Half the 5,4 million Macs sold in the holiday quarter went to Windows switchers, according to Apple.

Apple is helped by the fact that Microsoft can sometimes be misleading in its Surface ads, and there are enough Tweets out there from people who buy the fake news about Apple to fuel iPad ads for a long time to come.

Promoting iPads is a good thing, but it leaves open a big question, which is what Apple plans to do with future product upgrades.

Other than the iPad Pro, the lineup has remained stagnant. There are published reports of new iPads this year, headlined by a model with a 10.5-inch display and little or no screen bezel. So the physical size of the tablet may be no larger than today’s 9.7-inch models, which are also slated to be updated. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro will probably come along for the ride.

But speedier chips and a new form factor don’t really change how you use the iPad, and that’s where there I continue to have concerns.

So is Apple going to seriously consider fixing the iPad’s limitations as a productivity platform? I’ve been vocal about the problems that keep me from using one except to help Barbara address an occasional glitch with hers. I’ve tried, mind you. I’ve had the opportunity to review several iPads over the years, including the recent “Pro” editions. Each has been used with a keyboard; the Smart Keyboard for Apple’s recent models.

In each case, I’ve found the setup lacking. While some tech writers somehow manage to create their stuff on an iPad, I find it inhibiting. Maybe if those keyboards had some sort of navigation capability that kept my fingers from touching the screen. Maybe if they actually had a feel similar to a regular keyboard. The watchword with the Smart Keyboards is, to me, mush. Why can’t Apple build an iPad keyboard that is fast, fluid and productive? If it’s going to serve duty as a possible notebook replacement, even if only a part-time replacement, it should not be inferior to a real one in the ways that count.

My other argument is about multitasking, and whether the split screen and picture-in-picture schemes are up to the task. I’m not saying Apple needs to emulate the more flexible multitasking methods of a Mac or a Windows box, but if you want to be able to run several apps with multiple documents, you are highly restricted right now on an iPad. It seems curious that Apple expects you to use such apps as Microsoft Office for iOS and be thus inhibited.

Is there a better way? Well, Apple is expert at operating systems, so I expect they can come up with a solution that would open new possibilities of dealing with such matters in a more flexible, comfortable way. Maybe it’ll show up in iOS 11. But that depends on Apple’s priorities.

The other problem I have remains the same. The App Store’s security protections don’t allow for the kind of app I need to record my radio shows. You can’t get one of those apps from the Mac App Store either, but at least you can buy software from third-party developers. I do respect the reason for maintaining a walled garden for iOS, but Apple should consider expanding the types of apps that are allowed. Maybe they could work directly with developers to bring the equivalent of Audio Hijack to the platform.

In the meantime, the new iPad Pro campaign is a promising development. I hope it signifies a renewed emphasis on the platform, and portends great things in future models and the next iOS.