The iPad Pro might be Apple’s “Back to School” Dark Horse

The “Back to School” season in the US always offers a good boost to Apple’s sales. Traditionally, Apple launches its Back to School promotions in June or early July and, while 2015 was a bit of an exception with a later date, this year we went back to tradition as the details were shared at the start of June. As always, Apple’s promotions will run in their stores and online.

Apple’s 2015 Back to School Promotion Felt Like an Odd One Out

In 2015, Apple’s Back to School promotion was slightly more restricted than in pervious years. It offered one pair of Beats Solo2 On-Ear Headphones (via an instant credit in the amount of $199.95 that would be applied to your order) or one pair of Beats Solo2 Wireless On-Ear Headphones (also with an instant credit of $199.95 that would be applied to your order). The Qualified Education Individual would be responsible for paying the remaining balance ($100), following the application of the instant credit to the purchase price. Eligible products were iMacs, MacBooks, MacBook Pros, MacBook Airs, and the Mac Pro. The iPhone and the iPad were excluded from the promotion in 2015, also a departure from previous years.

While these omissions seemed odd at first, it is worth reminding ourselves of where Apple was in the summer of 2015. iPhone sales reached 61.2 million units in the second quarter of 2015, a healthy increase over the 43.7 million iPhones sold in 2014. iPad sales had started to decrease with volumes of 12.6 million, down from the 16 million of the second quarter of 2015. But the decline was not yet a real cause of concern.

Apple’s 2016 Back to School reflects the company’s needs

Apple enters Back to School 2016 in a very different market dynamic and the promotions reflect that. In the second quarter of 2016, Apple experienced a ten million unit drop year over year in iPhone sales, down to 51.2 million. iPad sales were down to 10.2 million units. So, iPhone and iPads are back on the list of qualifying devices for the Back to School promotion. Students purchasing an iPhone 6 and 6s or an iPad Pro will get a pair of Beats Powerbeats 2 wireless headphones worth $200. Students investing in iMac, Mac Pro, MacBook, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro will get a set of Beats Solo 2 wireless headphones worth $300.

Apple also offers special financing with the Barclaycard Visa.

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WWDC 2016 did not bring a new MacBook Pro so what now?

Despite the rumors leading up to WWDC, Apple did not launch a new MacBook Pro which means Apple has no new product for Back to School. Of course, that was enough to jumpstart yet another “Apple is doomed” line of commentary.

Considering that “Back to School” makes for a more pragmatic crowd of buyers, I personally doubt the new MacBook Pro would have been the star performer. The Pro line is always very aspirational and the price tag usually reflects that, making it more a purchase for the holiday season than Back to School.

If the Beats headsets are not enough of an incentive for buyers, there were enough promotions for July 4th to make the existing MacBook Pro and Air worth looking at, as prices drop by as much as $300 across authorized resellers.

iPad Pro Plus Microsoft Office can satisfy both students and parents

If you do what I do (namely, pretend to know about technology), you have pretty much everybody who knows what you do ask you what they should buy. When it comes to Back to School in the past few years, the question has often been: MacBook Air or iPad? The kids want the iPad and the parents want the MacBook, because college should be about work not play! Needless to say, it is not for me to debunk that theory.

On the tech front though, what parents really mean is that students need Microsoft Word and a keyboard. I feel I can safely say there is no longer a choice to be made between work and play if you use an iPad Pro with Office 365. The results of a recent study we conducted at Creative Strategies show college students clearly prefer to use Word for work that does not require collaboration where Google Docs reigns supreme. The full access a 365 Office subscription offers on all iPads allows for that solo work to be done with the preferred tool. And the iPad Pro plus a keyboard combination gives you the same ease of use a MacBook Air gives you with the added bonus of a touch screen.

Of course, if you are in the market for a PC and not a Mac, there are going to be cheaper options that already come with Office 365 as vendors try and clear their inventory during Back to School to prep for the Windows Anniversary Edition devices to hit later in the year. But, if you want to stay in the Apple camp, I think the two iPad Pro models have a role to play for this year’s Back to school buyer.

Published by

Carolina Milanesi

Carolina is a Principal Analyst at Creative Strategies, Inc, a market intelligence and strategy consulting firm based in Silicon Valley and recognized as one of the premier sources of quantitative and qualitative research and insights in tech. At Creative Strategies, Carolina focuses on consumer tech across the board. From hardware to services, she analyzes today to help predict and shape tomorrow. In her prior role as Chief of Research at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, she drove thought leadership research by marrying her deep understanding of global market dynamics with the wealth of data coming from ComTech’s longitudinal studies on smartphones and tablets. Prior to her ComTech role, Carolina spent 14 years at Gartner, most recently as their Consumer Devices Research VP and Agenda Manager. In this role, she led the forecast and market share teams on smartphones, tablets, and PCs. She spent most of her time advising clients from VC firms, to technology providers, to traditional enterprise clients. Carolina is often quoted as an industry expert and commentator in publications such as The Financial Times, Bloomberg, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. She regularly appears on BBC, Bloomberg TV, Fox, NBC News and other networks. Her Twitter account was recently listed in the “101 accounts to follow to make Twitter more interesting” by Wired Italy.

855 thoughts on “The iPad Pro might be Apple’s “Back to School” Dark Horse”

  1. “The kids want the iPad and the parents want the MacBook, because college should be about work not play!”

    You can play a lot of games on a macbook, you know. And you can read a lot of textbooks on an Ipad. Both can be used for both work and play.

    What your article doesn’t mention is that the Ipad Pro makes for a extremely attractive note taking device — handwritten notes in the margins of pdfs, for those textbooks whose DRM allows such, or handwritten notes in the notes app with easy access to the textbook a swipe away.

    And it solves the perennial problem of parents worried about buying spiral bound notebooks for their children, who fear that the notebook will be used for doodles instead of schoolwork.

    1. I did think about the pen but did not mention it as it comes with an added cost but you are right that with the right case so it does not get easily lost it could be an asset. My point about work and play it is more about the perception many people have about tablets, iPad in particular. There are a ton of productivity apps, health apps, books and so on but some people only see games. Thanks for the comment!

  2. Pl do not buy apple’s products in India.very recently my Ipad2’s battery is dead.They have asked Rs 6000/-!!!just for changing the battery which an average Indian can not afford. Their authorised agency has informed that I should pay 16000 by returning my Ipad so that they will give new one.

  3. “I think the two iPad Pro models have a role to play for this year’s Back to school buyer.”

    Crazy out of touch. This is what Apple wants you to think. If step out of the Kool Aid tub and dry off, what you really want becomes apparent; an iOS Device akin to a Surface Pro.

    That is: a laptop (with a real keyboard and trackpad) and an iPad. As one device. At a reasonable price (say $699). But Apple HATES that idea — because it would rather sell you a flawed iPad and a pricey MacBook for more than twice that price.

    This is why iPad sales are down and Tim Cook’s Apple sucks.

  4. Funny how it is – drinking a kul aid reminded me a salesman story.

    A salesman selling an anti-freeze for the cars (a name withdrawn for privacy reasons) was doing a sales pitch and showing how safe his product is. He poured a glass of anti-freeze for himself and drunk out of it in one shot.

    I wonder why they don’t do it anymore. Hmmm…. Lemme guess. Is it not safe??

  5. A friend of mine who’s a teacher (not a student, but still) is stuck on ultrabooks because:
    1- they’re a lot cheaper once you add a tablet’s accessories, especially if you compare a Windows ultrabook to an iPad Pro.
    2- they’re more upwards-mobile and can handle heavier stuff (Office Mobile still isn’t full-featured, statistical analysis, …)
    3- they’re more comfy in some scenarios (lap use !)
    4- they include a lot more storage

    Most students seem to follow the same reasoning: a tablet is nice to have on the side, but it’s still a secondary device, and a hard-to-justify luxury especially if you go for an Apple device. I’m sure there are specific cases were a Tablet in general or an iPad in particular works out better (anything where a pen is very useful and a keyboard + storage + legacy apps + lapability not so much), but those are far from the majority.

  6. I am a user of DayOne diary writing application on my iPhone. This app is very convenient if you want to take notes on the go. It also allows taking pictures, so I use it if I see something interesting and can attach a haiku to the picture later on. This app shares across all Apple devices, syncs to iCloud and allows sharing entries to the social media if there is something you want to share. On the other hand, in the evenings I like to use a paper diary. A handwriting is so satisfactory! You can write slowly and it is kind of therapeutic, and you have an idea how different letters are formed, and can play with it. For example, you can handwrite “Carol” similar to “card”. I can use both of my hands when I handwrite.

    Having discovered that iPad supports a handwriting may be just enough to push me to buy a new model. I am prone to losing things, so having all my diary entries in a digital form is preferable for me. I will definitely give a stylus a try!

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