A new Apple iPad is in development, according to Bloomberg, with a 12.9-inch display that adds around 3 inches to the size of the iPad Air in terms of diagonal screen dimensions. Such a device would be a lot larger than Apple’s current top tablet overall, and is apparently already gearing up for a production run starting in the first quarter of 2015. We’ve long heard rumors about a bigger tablet coming out of Cupertino, but if it’s finally arriving, next year could be a milestone for iOS and how it’s used.
The 12.9-inch iPad has been in development for at least a year, according to Bloomberg’s sources, and is designed to help “shake up” iPad sales according to the publication. It’s true that iPad sales have essentially plateaued over the last couple of quarters, instead of continuing to grow, as has Apple’s iPhone segment. Some analysts claim consumer shyness around new tablet purchases are tied to the availability of smartphones with ever-increasing screen dimensions.
Following that logic, offering a tablet with dimensions approximating those of laptops, albeit presumably with a much smaller overall physical footprint, makes a lot of sense. If the current lineup isn’t appealing because there’s not enough difference between big phones and standard tablets, maybe a larger display will give consumers something to get excited about.
The challenge is that larger tablets threaten to quickly become unwieldy. But there’s recent evidence to suggest that larger screens on tablet devices might not be nearly as preposterous as they once were; the Surface Pro 3, for instance, has a 13-inch display and packs a full computer within, yet remains perfectly usable (if a tad heavy) as a tablet device.
There’s other evidence to suggest a larger iPad could be on Apple’s roadmap: code in iOS 8 points to a feature in development that would allow users to run multiple apps side-by-side on the iOS-powered tablet, which would make even more sense given more screen real estate to do so. Apple could use simultaneous multitasking with increasing processor power and app capabilities to turn a large iPad into a strong competitor for notebook computers in education and in enterprise markets. Upsizing the physical hardware for iOS could begin to reveal the true potential of Apple’s mobile platform, in much the same way Microsoft’s attempts to shoehorn mobile functionality on desktop Windows have not.
Apple’s 12.9-inch iPad is far from a sure bet despite this report; as mentioned, we’ve heard rumblings about this kind of hardware in the past. But Bloomberg reporting a concrete production timeline with confidence is the best evidence we’ve had yet that it could become a reality – and if it does, it’ll be very interesting to see how Apple positions the device and what impact it has on the tablet market and Apple’s growing role in the overall PC industry, too.