Apple CEO takes to the stump to hawk the iPad Pro

'Apple knows it has to get people to care about tablets again,' says analyst

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Apple executives, including CEO Tim Cook, have been beating the iPad Pro drum in public, engaging in a very un-Apple thing -- "good, old-fashioned attention-getting," said one analyst.

The 12.9-in. iPad Pro tablet went on sale Wednesday at Apple's online store, with the device slated to show up on the company's retail shelves Friday. (Those who ordered online today could pick up their new tablets at an Apple Store or opt for Friday delivery.)

But in the days leading up to the launch, Cook, as well as Eddy Cue, the lieutenant in charge of Internet software and services, touted the iPad Pro at multiple locales and to multiple news outlets.

On a swing through Europe, Cook trumpeted the bigger iPad Pro as a substitute for many of the tasks that consumers, creative professionals and office workers require of their personal computers. "I think if you're looking at a PC, why would you buy a PC anymore? No really, why would you buy one?", Cook told The Telegraph on Monday, perhaps forgetting for a moment that the Mac is, in fact, a personal computer.

A day later, in Ireland to announce an expansion of Apple's manufacturing facility there, Cook took time to bash Microsoft's Surface Book, the new laptop that boasts a detachable tablet-like screen. "It's a product that tries too hard to do too much," Cook said in an interview with The Independent. "It's trying to be a tablet and a notebook and it really succeeds at being neither. It's sort of deluded."

Meanwhile, a plethora of iPad Pro reviews surfaced earlier Wednesday from a troop of sources that had been seeded devices last week. The number of reviews, and reviewers, was significantly larger than the days when only a handful of people -- literally fewer than five -- got early access.

Is this a new Apple? The late Steve Jobs certainly didn't go on the technology business version of a whistle-stop campaign. Is Apple worried so about slumping tablet sales that it's turned to traditional marketing tactics?

"I think this is just good, old-fashioned attention-getting," said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, of the multiple Cook and Cue interviews, and the more expansive reviewer list. Moorhead was one analyst who had a week with the iPad Pro before today. "It's a product that is a little bit of a problem to position. It doesn't replace a PC, it's an extension of the iPad [line]. That requires explanation, and requires Cook and Cue to put an emphasis on it."

Carolina Milanesi, chief of research for Kantar WorldPanel Comtech, also published a review today based on her early time with the tablet. Her thoughts were similar to Moorhead's, but she saw the face time by Cook as, if not unplanned, then dual purpose. "In his case, it's maybe a coincidence because he's in Europe [on other business]," Milanesi said.

"There's no pressure on Apple related to iPad revenue or from the marketplace, but Apple knows it has to get people to care about tablets again," she added. "People have moved on from tablets. So this is how Apple gets people to pay attention."

By tablet sales in general, and iPad sales specifically, people do seem to have moved on. Perhaps not from tablets, but from buying new tablets. iPad sales have contracted for seven straight fiscal quarters, dropping 20% in the September quarter of 2015 compared to the same period the year before. That was the second-largest decline in the iPad's five-year history.

"Apple is very confident that they have a good product in the iPad Pro," said Milanesi, citing bullish comments Cook and other executives have repeatedly made, long before the iPad Pro's introduction, about the tablet market and its potential. "But the category has stagnated. That's what this is. We're seeing more executives being vocal about the tablet to get people to care again."

One prominent hint of the lack of attention paid to the iPad was during last month's quarterly earnings call, when near its end, Cook said, sotto voce, "Nobody is asking about iPad on the call," after financial analysts had ignored the tablet.

"The industry and people have written off the category, but that's not the case for Apple," said Milanesi.

According to research firm Gartner, just 17% of consumers surveyed in the U.S., Brazil, China, France and India and the U.K., said they planned to purchase a tablet in the next year.

"Apple doesn't need growth from the iPad," Moorhead said, pointing to the continued billions the Cupertino, Calif. company rakes in from its iPhone, $32.2 billion in the September quarter alone. "What it has to do is show that the iPad has more momentum with the Pro."

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