Apple's iPad Pro is positioned to go head to head with the laptop market

In a move that will certainly intensify the (debatable) theory that iOS devices will eventually replace Macs altogether, Apple's new iPad Pro shows the company is head to head with the full, notebook personal computer market with its latest offering, the iPad Pro.

While many of the product enhancements reflect input from enterprise customers, IHS ( expects consumers will play a large role in demand for the iPad Pro. "By incorporating a Retina display, Apple provides clear product differentiation between the new iPad Pro and the current MacBook Air models," says the research group. "On front of screen performance, the iPad Pro will easily outperform the MacBook Airs, an important, in your face distinction for users as they grapple with the product choice. With a growing number of users turning to tablets and notebooks as their primary video viewing screen, display performance is key."

The iPad Pro packs a 12.9-inch Retina display with 5.6 million pixels, the most ever in an iOS device. It also packs a new 64-bit A9X chip, which Apple says rivals "most portable PCs." A four-speaker audio design provides stereo sound.

Apple today also introduced the Apple Pencil for iPad Pro, an US$99 input device you have to buy separately. Apple says it makes drawing and sketching "feel remarkably fluid and natural." The touch subsystem of the Multi-Touch display in iPad Pro has been redesigned to work with Apple Pencil to reduce latency and deliver incredible accuracy for activities like fine art illustration and detailed 3D design. 

A built-in Lightning connector makes for quick pairing and charging. The Apple Pencil works with apps like Mail, Notes, Procreate and Office 365 for iPad.

Apple also unveiled a Smart Keyboard. It's also an extra purchase and will cost you $169. It's a full-sized keyboard attaches to iPad Pro’s Smart Connector port, eliminating the need for a separate battery, on/off switch or Bluetooth pairing. The Smart Keyboard is covered in custom woven fabric so it's foldable and can transform into a Smart Cover. The Smart Keyboard works with new QuickType features in iOS 9.

The inclusion of four speakers is also a clear nod to the consumer segment, providing a long overdue improvement in audio performance, says IHS. Apple makes it easy for app developers as well, as the landscape height of the iPad Pro is equivalent to the portrait height of the iPad Air 2 so the size transition is" seamless," says the research group.

The iPad Pro starts at US$799 for the 32GB with Wi-Fi model and $1079for the Wi-Fi + Cellular 128GB model, comes in three metallic finishes (silver, gold and space gray) and will be available starting in November from, Apple’s retail stores, through select carriers and Apple Authorized Resellers.

Demand for tablets overall, and the iPad in particular has slowed in the past year, with iPad shipments down year-over-year over the past six quarters. IHS expects overall iPad shipments to reach 51 million units in 2015, a 19% drop from 2014 activity. 

The iPad Pro, with its higher price point will help to drive a healthy uptick in the average price for iPad’s however and a corresponding revenue kick, says IHS. The research group says to watch for improved iPad numbers in 2016 as supply of the iPad Pro improves and a healthy segment of the 200 million installed iPad users line up for a product refresh.