Like the iPhone killed off BlackBerry, the iPad Pro could end Wacom
The Japanese firm might own 80% of the professional tablet market now, but things could look very different next year
Have you heard of Wacom? It's a Japanese tech firm that has been making tablet devices since 1992. Its products have always been aimed at professional designers who want to be able to draw onto a screen as well as they can draw on paper.
Today, Wacom's stock is down by 1.59%, according to Bloomberg, and you can guess the reason why. Indeed, I'm surprised it hasn't nosedived.
With the release of the iPad Pro, which can be specced with a stylus called Pencil, Apple is squarely targeting Wacom's main customers. The Japanese firm might very well own 80% of the global market when it comes to professional tablets, but that number could look very, very different this time next year.
I've tested out one of Wacom's flagship products, the Cintiq Companion, and there's no denying it's fit for purpose. Powerful, reliable, and with great stylus technology (both hardware and software), it's all you could want from a professional-grade design machine. Except for one thing: it runs on Windows.
As my colleague, Stephen McBride, noted earlier, people have always tolerated Windows - either because it's forced on them by their employer, or because they can only afford devices running Windows. When you're a professional designer, however, things are a little different. I have never come across a serious design firm working in a Windows environment - it's all Macs. Macs have always been the darling of the creative industries, and that's unlikely to change. Apple would have to make a Windows 8-esque screw-up with its next operating system update to force creative types over to Microsoft.
The exception to the rule is Wacom, which has thrived with designed houses because the hardware is so good, Windows notwithstanding. The iPad Pro, however, is a monster in terms of its hardware. And guess what? You won't have to suffer Windows to reap the benefits of it. That's got to be a pretty enticing prospect for your average design pro.
If you are a design pro, you won't be able to switch straight away. Because the Windows-based Wacom has pretty much owned the market for so long, the software that most designers have become accustomed to is also mostly Windows-based - or at least, it's not available on iOS, the iPad Pro's operating system. However, that will change as designers demand to have a go with the Pro. If the traditional software players don't create iOS versions of their apps for it, upstart developers will come along and offer similar functions with their own apps.
As soon as that happens, design pros will flock over to Apple's new device, which is sleeker, thinner and lighter than anything Wacom can throw at it. Much like the iPhone killed off the BlackBerry in the enterprise, the iPad Pro could kill off the legacy Wacom in the design world. If I was on the Japanese firm's board, I'd be extremely worried indeed.