A new rumor from Digitimes, reported by 9to5Mac, corroborates previous rumors (from The Wall Street Journal and others) of a larger, 13-inch iPad Pro.
While I agree with much of 9to5Mac’s analysis, I don’t agree with their comments about keeping the same form factor as the current iPad, nor do I agree with the rumor’s educational customer emphasis.
What would an enterprise like more than
an iPad with a screen ratio much like a 13-inch MacBook Air or MacBook Pro?
Apple and Microsoft got their respective screen aspect ratios correct: the iPad and iPad mini, both being smaller than 10 inches diagonally and sporting a 4:3 aspect ratio, would be too cramped to support a full-size physical keyboard, so Apple correctly left them off. (Have you tried any of the Logitech or other physical keyboard cases for an iPad? I got the worst case of carpal tunnel syndrome trying to use them for just a day.)
On the other hand, the single best thing about the Surface devices from Microsoft is that their 16:9 aspect ratio allows a full-size (or almost full-size) keyboard (but their main problem being that a 16:9 aspect ratio is terrible for a mainly touch-based device without a physical keyboard, because the onscreen keyboard takes over most of the screen real estate, leaving little room for your content).
(9to5Mac claims in the comments to the article that Apple wouldn’t create yet another size/aspect ratio screen, presumably because it would make it too hard for developers. Well, Apple is pretty much pushing iOS 6 and 7 right now, and for developers those include Auto Layout functionality, which makes developing for different sized devices much easier. I agree that Apple won’t come out with 30 different screen sizes and aspect ratios. But I do think a laptop-sized and -shaped screen makes sense if there’s a keyboard involved. And, just as iPhone 4-sized apps ran letterboxed inside the iPhone 5 screen, current iPad apps (4:3 screen ratio) could run letterboxed inside a new 16:10 screen ratio on a 13-inch iPad Pro.)
So if Apple came out with an iPad aimed at the enterprise, might it have a keyboard accessory (built-in or additional cost)? Would the 13-inch size (and 16:10 aspect ration of MacBooks) allow a full-size keyboard, which many knowledge workers need?
But then that begs the question: why have a touch device if you’re going to include a keyboard? Does that make sense? Or is the reason that Apple came out with a 64-bit chip so early more because Apple may make an ARM-based laptop that needs 4 GB+ of RAM?
I don’t know the answers to these questions and rumors, but I think it’s clear Apple is going to aim for larger devices that could completely replace Intel laptops for all enterprise knowledge workers, and not just touch-only tablets that make sense for a subset of workers.
The next 2 years will be very interesting indeed for the enterprise.