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12.9-inch “iPad Pro” looking more likely, but not until next year

Sections: iPad, iPhone/iPod touch/iPad, Originals, Rumors

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As an initially foot-dragging but now convinced convert to the (sort of) post-PC era, I’m getting a little excited about the prospect of a 12.9-inch iPad Pro, as rumors of such a machine in the offing increasingly firm up.

The latest tranche of large-screen iPad speculation comes via a usually reliable Apple products prognosticator—KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo—in a new research note cited by MacRumors, Appleinsider, and many other sites over the weekend. MacRumors’ Richard Padilla reports that, according to Mr. Kuo, Apple will most likely release an upgraded iPad Air later this year with a more powerful 64-bit A8 SoC and a Touch ID fingerprint sensor, and delay release of a 12.9-inch “iPad Pro” and a newer iPad mini version until next year.

Mr. Kuo is cited noting that sales of the 2,048 x 1,536 Retina iPad mini have been much slower than expected, and consequently Apple will focus its R&D resources on development of the 12.9-inch iPad, which he projects will debut early next year or. at the earliest. late this year with limited supply and low shipments until into 2014.

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The new smaller, lighter, sleeker iPad Air turned out to be the hot ticket iPad model 4Q13, and its higher margin per unit will help assuage Apple’s disappointment over the Retina mini’s lukewarm acceptance by consumers. The latter doesn’t surprise me, since in my estimation the mini’s only advantages over the full-sized iPad have been the obvious one of size and its substantially lower price, but with the high-cost Retina display it is only $100 lower, and the size difference is a lot less now that the iPad Air is filling the full-size slot, thereby opening up market slotting for a larger, more enterprise oriented (and yet even more profitable per unit) iPad Pro.

Mr. Kuo’s research note is cited maintaining that a 12.9-inch iPad will catalyse growing the iPad market even more (possibly bad news for the 11.6 inch MacBook Air) and allowing developers to create more interactive apps optimized to make good use of a bigger screen. The iPad version of the iOS will also have to be revised to accommodate the larger display, and presumably will come as part of iOS 8. Mr. Kuo predicts Apple will reboot production of the iPad 4 in Q1 2014 as a budget large iPad placeholder as iPad 2 production is finally phased out after its very successful three-year run.

A larger display will certainly be a facilitator of getting work done on the iPad with fewer compromises and inefficiencies, but I won’t be able to consider Apple’s tablet a truly professional work tool replacement for a PC until it supports real, multi-windowed multitasking, file-level directory user access, and better wired or removable media connectivity—preferably standard USB support with a mouse driver to go with for precision input. Now, that would be really exciting!

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