Today in Apple history: iPad Pro makes its big debut

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iPad Pro
The iPad Pro was a big step forward for the iPad.
Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

November 11: Today in Apple history: iPad Pro debutsNovember 11, 2015: Apple’s first iPad Pro goes on sale after months of speculation about the giant-size tablet. With its much larger screen, professional-oriented targeting and dreaded (optional) stylus, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro represents Apple CEO Tim Cook’s cleanest break yet from Steve Jobs’ vision for iOS devices.

And it turned out all the better for it!

iPad Pro: The ultimate computer

I have a personal theory that the iPad represented the purest form of Jobs’ ideal for computing. Throughout his career, he distilled personal computers into their purest forms.

Speaking with former Apple engineers in the 2000s — before the iPad or iPhone existed — one person jokingly remarked that Jobs’ perfect computer would probably be a screen with no keyboard and, at best, one button to turn it on and off.

They were kidding around (or were they?). However, this turned out to be pretty much exactly what the iPad was.

The iPad Pro, then, was Cook’s revised vision for the iPad — just as the iPhone 6 Plus had been his revised vision of what an iPhone could be, after Jobs assured users he had found the perfect screen size for a smartphone.

The iPad Pro was bigger, sure — sized 12.9 inches compared to 9.7 inches for the original iPad. However, unlike the plus-size iPhones, its larger screen made perfect sense for a tablet.

I’ve used a 5.5-inch iPhone ever since Apple released one. It’s fine when I’m working in an office. But the moment I take it outside, I’m reminded how unwieldy it is. It proves very challenging to use one-handed. And the Reachability feature seems like a half-assed solution.

The iPad Pro, meanwhile, feels perfect. It’s light enough that the size difference doesn’t matter. And it’s also big enough to be properly used for productivity tasks.

To stylus or not to stylus?

Which brings me to the Apple Pencil. At the time of the iPad Pro’s unveiling, many people commented on how it represented Apple losing sight of one of Jobs’ fundamental rules: Thou shalt never pair a stylus with an Apple touch device.

For Cook to do this showed that he — and Apple as a whole — would willingly compromise the user-first excellence that Jobs prided himself on.

I never took it that way. Jobs liked challenging people, especially those who worked under him. Jobs saying that a stylus appearing on the iPad automatically meant failure was no different from popular wisdom in the age of Napster claiming that no users would ever pay money for downloaded music.

In this case, it meant that no currently existing stylus belonged anywhere near Apple’s beautiful iPad — and Apple proved it right by debuting the most impressive, pressure-sensitive stylus I’ve ever used. For my money, the Apple Pencil is one of the best products Apple has released under Cook’s leadership. It’s absolutely one of my top five Apple accessories of all time.

12-9inch iPad Pro: Apple’s best iPad yet

In terms of specs, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro boasted Apple’s A9X chip and the M9 motion co-processor. Like the smaller iPads, it also boasted Touch ID and a Retina display, which in this case meant a 2,732-by-2,048 resolution and a pixel density of 264 PPI.

It was the first iPad to include Apple’s Smart Connector and four speakers, as well as 4GB of RAM. In addition to the Apple Pencil, other accessories included a “smart” screen cover and attachable keyboard. The device itself shipped in gold, silver and space gray color options. (Rose gold did not become available until the smaller iPad Pro arrived.)

While Apple insisted that the iPad would become a PC replacement, it hasn’t exactly done that. However, the iPad Pro succeeded at truly taking the iPad to the next level.

Do you own an iPad Pro? What’s your assessment of it a few years down the line? Leave your comments below.

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