Opinion: neither the iPad Pro nor 12-inch MacBook Air make much sense to me

iPad Pro mockup video (image 002)

There’s a lot going on at Apple right now. Record quarters aside, there is a lot to be hopeful for as 2015 gets into full swing, and not just because the fabled Apple Watch is finally on the horizon. If the rumors are to be believed we could see both the iPad Pro and 12-inch MacBook Air some time in the next eleven months, and both have plenty of people excited.

The iPad Pro story is one that has gone on for years now, and with photos of supposed parts for the new tablet starting to crop up, it’s looking more and more likely that not only is the thing real, but it’s not too far away either.

The same can be said about the 12-inch MacBook Air. Again, photographs of what it is claimed are parts for the unannounced product have started to circulate around the internet, and the noises that it might only have one USB Type-C connector rather than a MagSafe for power have meant that there have been plenty of column inches and podcast hours afforded to the subject.

But what is all the excitement really about, and more importantly, is it justified?

That’s a question I’ve been asking myself for the last few weeks and I find myself now coming to the conclusion that neither are of any real interest to me and, I suspect, to the great unwashed masses. As with any product there will be people lining up, credit card in hand desperate to buy either new device but what about the ‘normals’ that Apple has captured ever since the iPhone made it big so many years ago?

Let’s take a look at that iPad Pro first, if only because it’s the rumor that just won’t die and if the thing actually turns out to be real, with good reason.

So what makes it a ‘pro’ version of the existing iPad Air 2? Well, it’s said to be larger thanks to the 12-inch display it is likely to sport. While that’s wonderful if you need the extra space – and weight – I’m not sure enough people need the former and nobody needs the latter. The larger screen comes into its own with specific use cases though, which is where that stylus comes in.

Yes, Apple is supposedly bringing a stylus to the iPad. No, the irony isn’t lost on us and yes, we all remember the Steve Jobs quote.

So, a stylus. For drawing. On a larger screen. That’s all well and good if you’re a graphic designer, though you’ll probably want the screen to be calibrated to within an inch of its life. Given Apple’s recent run of luck with getting iPad screens that work properly – the iPad mini debacle, for example – I wouldn’t want to put too much money on that. But let’s say Apple exercises its display demons – does a nice big screen and a stylus appeal to you? Does it appeal to your parents? Does it appeal to the Average Joes who, let us be honest, are the people that Apple needs to buy iPads if it is to arrest the decline in sales the product line is seeing?

In short, is there enough demand to justify a whole new product in a lineup that is already confusing to those ‘normals’ we were just talking about? I’d argue that the addition of a new model, above the current king of the lineup that is the iPad Air 2, adds more confusion and fragmentation than it does sales.

Which brings us to that 12-inch MacBook Air that everyone is in such a lather about.

Said to be super thin, super light and sans fan, this product sounds like the Air we’ve all been waiting for. Except we’ve been waiting for it in 11-inch and 13-inch flavors. Has anyone really been eying up either of the existing MacBooks and thought “you know what? That 11-inch is fine but it’s too small. The 13-inch? Too big.” Is the 12-inch MacBook Air the Goldilocks model?

Does anyone need to walk into an Apple Store and choose between MacBook Airs in 1-inch increments?

Now before everyone starts shouting about the 12-incher having a Retina Display it’s worth nothing that things have gone quiet on that front, and recent rumors have side-stepped the subject completely. Anyway, would such a high-resolution display not also make its way to the 12-inch MacBook Air’s brethren, anyway?

Of course, Apple could spring a surprise and kill off the 11-inch MacBook Air in favor of the 12-inch. After all, the new model is said to have a similar footprint but with a larger screen. Who knows? I certainly don’t.

And then there’s that port situation. One port, on a super portable machine, might make more sense than many have given Apple credit for so long as nobody tries to use it as their main machine. If it’s a satellite? No problem. A machine sat on a desk with a monitor, power, external hard disk and a mouse plugged in? Not so much.

If the move to just one cable port on the 12-inch MacBook Air is to come to fruition then there will be plenty of questions to ask of both the reasoning and the expectations Apple has of its customers. Are they even supposed to plug it into a monitor? Are they just not allowed?

Are customers willing to be dictated to in such a way if that is indeed the case?

I guess what I’m trying to say is that neither of these two supposedly hotly anticipated products make a great deal of sense to me. No clear market, or at least none of the size Apple has become accustomed to targeting, and compromises in particular with the 12-inch MacBook Air has me wondering where Apple is headed. Throw in the Apple Watch which, no matter how you cut it, might simply not sell beyond the earlier adopter crowd, and things start to look decidedly dicey for 2015.

Or, as is also entirely possible, we’ll be sat here next year with yet more record numbers on the board and egg on my face.

I sure hope so.