The iPad Pro could reverse declining iPad sales thanks to its enterprise appeal

Apple sold “only” 9.9 million iPads in its fiscal 2015 fourth quarter that ended Sept. 26. That’s down 10% from last quarter and down 20% year-over-year. However, the company says it remains optimistic about its tablet line and has high hopes for the upcoming iPad Pro. And new data from Gartner gives at least a bit of hope for a positive bump in tablet sales.

A survey by the research group found that 17 percent of consumer respondents in mature markets intend to buy a tablet in the next 12 months. The survey, which was conducted in May and June 2015, surveyed 19,000 consumers in the U.S., U.K., France, China, Brazil and India.

However, the survey found that less than one in five users in mature markets are planning to purchase or upgrade a tablet. The penetration of tablets has reached more than 66 percent of households in the U.S., with more than 25 percent of households having two or more tablets. Something different is needed; the iPad Pro could be it.

"Unless new compelling innovation or incentives to upgrade tablets are created, the churn of the mature installed base will continue to fall," says Meike Escherich, principal research analyst at Gartner. "The worst-case scenario is that many tablet users will never upgrade or buy a new tablet as phablets and/or two-in-one convertible PCs (both with larger screen) envelop the benefits of a tablet. This scenario would result in real household penetration for tablets falling under 40 percent in mature markets.”

CEO Tim Cook has described the iPad Pro as “the clearest expression of our vision of the future of personal computing.” The company is also positioning the super-sized tablet as a go-to device for business and enterprise customers. 

Forrester Research said earlier this year that it expects business-owned tablets to represent 20 percent of the total segment by 2018; that’s a large increase over the 14 percent of the tablet market is owned by businesses this year.

Overall, Gartner's consumer survey findings indicate that 48 percent of respondents don’t want to replace a device until they absolutely have to. About half of the survey respondents plan to remain loyal to their current form factor, especially desktops (65 percent) and standard laptops (46 percent). However, the survey showed that consumers seem increasingly uncertain about what device should replace their existing device, which points to users' wants and needs not being clearly met by current product offers as overlapping offers make the decision process increasingly complicated.

"Opportunities appear in the form of hybrids,” says Escherich. “Demand for this two-in-one form factor is generated by tablet owners and standard laptop users. The dissatisfaction with standard laptops comes from issues around battery life, weight and boot up times.”

I’m not sure whether you can actually call the iPad Pro a hybrid device. But it’s the closest thing that Apple offers. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that 70 percent of the smartphones and tablets used by enterprise workers bear Apple’s logo, according to a recent report by CompTIA .

The iPad Pro will reportedly go on sale Nov. 11, although this hasn’t been confirmed by Apple. Pricing starts at $799 for the 32GB with Wi-Fi model and $1,079 for the Wi-Fi + Cellular 128GB model. The iPad Pro comes in three metallic finishes including silver, gold and space gray.