Rumors of a super-duper, amped-up, big-screen “iPad Pro” have been floating around at least as early as this summer, and that’s before Apple surprised the tech community with its 64-bit A7 processors in September.
Overall, most of the rumors seem to surround speculative predictions, where a financial analyst predicts a class of new product in an attempt to lend insight into how the market might shift.
Of the dozens upon dozens of iPad Pro rumor articles I’ve been following, however, none of them seem to have a real, direct connection to a source that would truly know what the heck Apple is working on deep inside its Cupertino lair.
Of course, that doesn’t mean the rumor doesn’t carry weight. What’s worse, on the face of it, the rumor sometimes seems to make so much sense that it must be true.
So What’s the Core Rumor Here?
In 2014, early or autumn, Apple will deliver an iPad Pro with a larger screen size at 12.9 inches. It will sport an even more powerful, next-generation A8 processor. Some rumors predict an UltraHD screen in the 4K class (because why not?), even though such a screen would likely increase weight and battery drain for no good purpose in a 12.9-inch screen. A 2K display seems more likely — at least in a first-generation iPad Pro model.
In fact, one of the best possible “sources” for a 2K-based iPad Pro came from the NPD Group’s DisplaySearch report in October in which supply chain research (no names given) indicated that Apple could be planning to use a 12.9-inch display at 2732 x 2048 pixels, which could presumably go into a next-generation iPad. (Incidentally, that same report noted other display form factor action that could point to a 4.7 or even 5.7-inch iPhone 6.)
Meanwhile, a heavily cited rationale for an iPad Pro comes from Apple’s naming convention with its MacBook Pro and MacBook Air notebooks. Because Apple changed the name of the new iPad to the iPad Air, it stands to reason that Apple would be working on a larger, more powerful “Pro” model, too.
Hard to argue with that logic.
Is There Room for a Bigger iPad?
At the heart of this rumor is the notion that there’s a market for a larger iPad in the first place — never mind that Samsung just announced two new 12.2-inch tablets at CES, effectively beating Apple to the space with a modern offering.
According to Apple CEO Tim Cook, who noted it in Apple’s last financial call to investors last fall, Apple held 94 percent of the tablet market in education. While I personally believe there’s a market for a larger iPad that would be more capable of replacing a laptop in business (and creative) environments, I would expect Apple to more fully explore ways to deliver more iPads to schools and kids.
After all, as children grow up touching and tapping and swiping, they’ll become a revenue source of future consumers who prefer the tablet form factor over the old-school MacBook notebooks with Mac OS X — which, it should be noted, currently rely on Intel-based processors, while iPads use Apple’s own processors.
If Apple is considering a longer-term shift at the processor and OS level in order to retain more control over release cycles, innovation and profit, then building and supporting a “pro” iPad seems like a great place to start.
All of these sorts of arguments point to a clear consensus that pretty much everybody believes an iPad Pro is a done deal — it’s coming in 2014.
Wrinkles and Foldable iPad Pros?
The latest flurry of rumor activity stems from a widely cited report from Evercore Partners analyst Patrick Wang, who believes Apple will actually deliver some sort of 12-inch iPad hybrid product. As near as I can tell, Wang’s report is based on logic and speculation rather than direct insight to specific Apple plans.
Still, the argument for an Apple-produced keyboard case — similar to Microsoft’s keyboard covers — has also made the rumor rounds, and a 12.9-inch iPad Pro version would give the keyboard enough width to become a full-size keyboard rather than one of the many cramped and condensed options available from third-party manufacturers today.
The point? If the iPad Pro is going to succeed as a true laptop replacement and workhorse sort of device, it’s going to need a great case solution as well as a packable and usable keyboard. Apple might furthermore be the company to create it, much like it created the surprisingly delightful magnetic Smart Cover.
Wang, though, seems to see opportunity for Apple to take the iPad Pro a step farther and create a true hybrid device in a clamshell sort of form factor. While other manufacturers have created notebook/tablet hybrid devices already, an Apple offering in this space could shake up the notebook market as well as affect Intel while giving a boost to ARM.
Either way, a shift in desire for hybrid devices seems to be increasing. Even die-hard Apple enthusiasts (like myself) can’t help but appreciate the idea behind “a notebook when you need it and a tablet when you want it,” which provides the fuel for the iPad Pro rumor: market opportunity coupled with desire from consumers for bigger screens.