How the iPad Pro Will Influence iOS App Development
Apple recently announced their next iPad, the iPad Pro. Many pundits loathe the iPad Pro, equating it to an iOS knock-off of Microsoft’s Surface tablet, but they are missing the point. The future of technology isn’t about new features in Apple’s products, rather it’s about what those products don’t have. Apple makes these restrictive choices to force the future to happen.
Many were hoping for an iPad Pro using OS X instead of iOS to replace both their MacBook Air and iPad. However an iOS iPad Pro will push developers to create more powerful iOS apps, kinds that can compete with desktop software.
The iPad Problem
Sales of new iPads have recently been declining, leading to negative growth within the market. Currently, the most popular iPad is still the iPad 2 with 20% of the market share, down from 29% last year. Consumers aren’t buying new iPads like they are iPhones. Unlike iPhones, which are heavily used for their photo and video shooting abilities, not to mention their perennial function as mobile communication devices, iPads tend to be more often employed in the consumption of content. Browsing websites, watching Netflix, and reading eBooks work fine on older generation iPads.
In general newer iOS apps still work flawlessly on older iPads. Most new iOS apps don’t take advantage of the incremental hardware improvements that have occurred over the new generations of iPads.
This is all about to change.
iOS Apps: Screen Sizes and Slicing
Ensuring an app or website will work on every screen is a challenge. This is referred to as responsive or adaptive design. For developing iOS apps using Xcode, a developer uses storyboards for the user interface layout. These storyboards often need to work in both portrait and landscape mode, and on a wide range of screen sizes. The auto-layout option aids in this process by resizing the interface automatically. Separate storyboards can even be created for iPad and iPhone to really optimize the look of an iOS app. With the introduction of the iPad Pro, there’s yet another screen size for developers to target.
Added to the mix with the new version of Xcode 7 supporting iOS 9 is the slicing feature as part of their app thinning optimization. An iOS developer can now design an app for all iOS devices and only the variant of the app needed for that particular device will be downloaded. This, coupled with on demand resources allowing iOS apps to dynamically download new components as necessary, will let iOS developers push the boundaries of app development, leading to more feature-rich iOS apps. These apps will still be supported on older iOS devices, while enabling all-new features on newer iOS devices.
As Adobe and Microsoft demonstrated at WWDC, there will soon be iOS apps that really take advantage of the screen size and power of the iPad Pro. Its now just a question of iOS developers making suitably powerful versions of their apps targeting business and design.
Software as a Service
The profit margin is often low to nonexistent on direct purchase iOS apps. The only sustainable business model for the iOS app industry for creating such powerful apps for professionals and scaled-down versions for the average consumer is the software as a service (SaaS) business model. Companies like the aforementioned Adobe and Microsoft have successfully demonstrated this. This leads to something of a paradox. On the one hand, the newer iPads are powerful enough to run nearly all processes locally instead of in the cloud, on the other SaaS is dependent on a cloud or hosted service. Striking a balance between the two will be an interesting challenge in the feature-rich iOS app environment of the future.
Will iOS developers quickly adopt this new direction of powerful apps using ever more cloud-based SaaS business models in order to generate more revenue? Leave your answer below in the comments, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.