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With a 128GB Model, iPad Throws Down to Surface

The iPad’s strongest case as a productivity device yet.
January 30, 2013

When I first got my iPad, the one thing I swore to myself is that I wouldn’t use it for work. Indeed, if I ever wanted to write an email more than a few sentences long, I declared (to myself) that I would stow away my iPad and reach for my MacBook, so strong was my fealty to the physical keyboard. And yet just today, I found myself precariously balancing my iPad on my lap, typing out a lengthy email.

My iPad–about which I was initially skeptical (see “My First Month as an iPad User”)–has wormed its way into my life. I like how easily it slips into my bag. I like the form factor. I like that it doesn’t have a loud fan that kicks in after any heavy use. I like that it starts up rapidly and powers down just as fast, and that its battery lasts for days. Not to get too sentimental or anything, but it’s typically the first device I reach for in the morning, and the last one I put away at night. Increasingly, in some ways, it might be becoming my primary device; when I open my MacBook to get productive, it’s with a sense of reluctance.

If an iPad skeptic and newcomer like me can develop such an attachment to the thing in the short span of a few months, it’s no wonder that Apple is unveiling a souped-up version that expands its capabilities of the device and makes a stronger case for it as a productivity device. Apple today announced a 128GB version of the fourth-generation iPad with Retina display. Said Apple’s Philip Schiller: “With twice the storage capacity and an unparalleled selection of over 300,000 native iPad apps, enterprises, educators and artists have even more reasons to use iPad for all their business and personal needs.”

The device would run $799 for a Wi-Fi only model, $929 for one enabled for cellular data, and will be available for sale starting February 5th.

The initial idea behind the iPad was a lightweight, super mobile computing device that could access the cloud for storage and streaming media. But Apple is making a case for the iPad as a full-blown productivity and business device. Cupertino says that “virtually all” of the Fortune 500 and over 85% of the Global 300 are “currently deploying or testing iPad.” With 128GB at your disposal, the range of projects you can engage in using local storage expand: you can edit a movie, mix a song, design a building.

Many observers are calling this a run at Microsoft, whose Surface tablet has marketed itself as the device that will most effectively switch hit between a passive-tablet mode, and an active-laptop mode. If you’re really dedicated to making your tablet feel like a laptop, your best bet is still probably with the Surface or with the upcoming Surface Pro, which runs a full version of Windows 8 Pro, effectively mimicking a desktop environment in a mobile form factor.

Looking at Apple’s margins, Cult of Mac’s John Brownlee goes so far as to see the 128GB iPad as betokening a realignment of sorts in how Apple views all its models. Noting a few facts–that Apple’s earnings are dazzling slightly less than before, that margins are better on iPads than on Apple laptops, and that the iPad mini is arguably more pleasing as a media consumption device than a full-size iPad–Brownlee suggests that high-range iPads aren’t just a productivity device, but that soon they’ll be the productivity device. He points out that one Cult of Mac editor already files every story from an iPad. I myself concede that if there were a version of an iPad that ran a full desktop-style OS and had an attractive physical keyboard option, I’d certainly think harder before getting the MacBook Air I hope to buy in a few weeks.

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