With Apple's thinner, lighter iPad Air and Retina display-equipped iPad mini out in the open, what's left for Apple to do?

Rumor has it that the Mac maker is working on an even larger iPad, commonly referred to as the "iPad Pro." We've combed through all of the rumors and scuttlebutt to bring you everything we've heard so far about this alleged iPad Pro.

Apple did something interesting with the launch of the latest full-sized iPad (aside from a total hardware revamp): Gave it a new name. The iPad Air alludes to the Cupertino, Calif. company adopting the naming convention of its laptop lines, the MacBook Air and Pro series, for its premiere range of tablets.

Logic would dictate, then, that if Apple were to release an even more sizable iPad, it would be with a professional bent and named the iPad Pro. So, we're looking at 2014 for a newer, bigger iPad entering a product category that has seen little success thus far. Will Apple be the one to legitimize the "professional's tablet?"

Cut to the chase
What is it? A brand new, larger iPad
When will it release? Either spring or fall 2014, we expect
What will it cost? Likely somewhere between the iPad Air and MacBook Air

iPad Pro release date

The iPad Pro release date might be in 2014, following the iPad Air, which released November 1, 2013. However, there are many rumors regarding the tablet's firm release date.

Unnamed Foxconn sources have told Chinese news site Pad News that Apple plans either a late winter/spring or October 2014 release date. To further confuse things, these sources also claim that Apple is working on two versions of the pro-level slate.

According to Pad News, an iPad Pro with a 2K screen resolution will launch in April 2014, while a 4K iPad Pro will land in October. Korea Times's sources at a "local first-tier display supplier" report that a single version will launch "sometime early next year" with a nearly UHD resolution.

Even more sources reporting to China's United Daily News, point to another iPad Pro manufacturing partner entirely: Quanta Computer. DigiTimes's sources (hit-and-miss with rumors) recently backed up this report, claiming that Apple expected the manufacturer to have either a 12.9 or 13.3-inch model ready. Now, the Taiwanese outlet's sources say that Apple is leaning toward the smaller screen.

As if to mix things up even more, International Business Times reports that Apple is aiming for winter or even a spring 2015 release, according to its Foxconn sources.

Computer World points out that most US school districts determine their budgets in January or February each year. So, a fall or winter 2014 launch would make the most sense.

However, Rhoda Alexander, an analyst for market research firm IHS, isn't convinced that we'll see an iPad Pro in 2014 if at all. Alexander told CNET that, while she's aware that many manufacturers are looking at sample panels at various sizes–12.85 inches being one of them–it's still early days for the potential pad.

"We have not seen volume shipments yet of any panels," Alexander told CNET. "We have to get a lot further down the line in terms of seeing really strong indicators from Apple that such a product exists, and we're just not at that point."

Thanks to an analyst with KGI Securities, whether Apple will get to the iPad Pro in 2014 at all is a question we're all asking. According to a report published by the firm, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo doesn't expect that Apple will be ready to launch the pro-grade tablet until 2015.

As of March 17th, the latest from the rumor mill is that Apple has canceled its iPad Pro project altogether. DigitTimes – take that grain of salt – reports that the larger iPad has been shelved, anticipating a lack of support from developers and the overall ecosystem. Has Apple already backed off out of fear of crowding the market? We'll have to wait and see, of course.

Apple tries to quash the rumors

On the Macintosh computer's 30th birthday, Apple executives responded to rumors that the company was looking to merge Mac OS X and iOS into a single operating system. The retort? No chance in hell.

"We don't waste time thinking, 'But it should be one [interface].' How do you make these [operating systems] merge together?' What a waste of energy that would be," Apple SVP of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller told Macworld.

Craig Federighi, Apple's SVP of Software Engineering, echoed Schiller's statement with some rather sensible logic. Regardless, neither does this mean that an even larger iPad isn't in the works nor that iOS could become more professional-friendly to support such a device. Basically, if Apple were to release an iPad Pro, it wouldn't pull a Microsoft.

The competition already heats up

Samsung beat Apple to the punch in unveiling its 12.2-inch Galaxy Note Pro and Galaxy Tab Pro tablets during CES 2014. With that, DigiTimes expects Apple "to release its competitor by the end of the third quarter at the earliest."

iPad Pro design

It's doubtful that Apple would do much to change the shape of the iPad Pro in its leap to 12.9 inches, the supposed size most rumors point to. The iPad Air's design was applauded by critics (us included), and early sales projections say that consumers are into it. However, an Evercore Partners analyst suspects the size to be a smaller 12 inches to align itself closer to the 11.6-inch MacBook Air, AppleInsider reports.

It should go without saying that the iPad Pro will inevitably be heavier than the iPad Air. To even meet the iPad Air's feathery 453.6 g at 12.9 inches would be a miracle of modern engineering. That said, not much should stop Apple from meeting the Air's super svelte profile at 7.5 mm thin.

The concept designers at SET Solution seem to disagree. In the video above, SET Solution dreams of a device with an even narrower bezel with sharper edges, a camera with the dual LED flash found on the iPhone 5s, Touch ID and a textured aluminum backing.