Contrary to my previous predictions, the Surface Pro 3 is selling reasonably well (not iPad well, but better than versions one and two of the Surface). Businesses are finally waking up to the benefits of only having to outfit their employees with one device which, in most circumstances, act as two: a laptop and a tablet. The advert for the Surface Pro 3 exemplifies this, showing a young man using the Pro 3 in various scenarios that would require a laptop and a tablet, and this tactic is obviously working.
While the MacBook Air and iPad are good at being a laptop and a tablet respectively, they are still two devices and thus require two power adapters, two carry bags and so on. Apple is working hard to bring the iPad and Mac closer – OS X and iOS now have Hand-Off, which seamlessly, and wirelessly, transfers work from iOS to OS X – but without integrated hardware it is but a token effort.
What I believe Apple needs to do is release an iPad Pro.
Just as Microsoft has done with the Surface Pro – from the original up to number three – Apple can create the iPad Pro as a device that combines the best elements of a laptop – power and keyboard – with the best elements of a tablet – portability, battery life, and touchscreen – into one device. If any company can successfully bring about this device it's Apple, who invented the tablet space back in 2010 and is likely to invent the first commercially successful smartwatch with the Apple Watch.
The Wall Street Journal has reported that Apple is planning on releasing an iPad Pro – or, at the very least, a larger iPad – in late 2014, early 2015, featuring a 12.9-inch screen. Interestingly, separate reports have stated that Apple is thinking about releasing a smaller, lighter and possibly ARM-powered MacBook Air with a 12-inch screen. The overlap of these two (rumoured) devices – especially considering how similar they would be in terms of hardware specs – is incredibly interesting and could create an unusual dynamic amongst Apple's line-up, which has traditionally been very separate as each device plays its own part.
A potential precedent has been set for this introduction by the iPhone 6 Plus, which has a 5.5-inch screen, not much more than a couple of inches away from the screen on the iPad mini. As many pundits have speculated and advised, Apple may be looking to wind the iPad mini down as its sales are cannibalised by the 6 Plus, which is both a phone and a tablet (a combination of two devices, as the iPad Pro would be).
While little is known about the iPad Pro so far, the very fact that the leaks exist is a pointer to Apple's concern for the iPad line and the firm's willingness to diversify it to include new models that will be free from cannibalisation from below (i.e. the iPhone). Of course, the iPad Pro would open the MacBook line up to cannibalisation but the PC industry is largely going to become non-existent – even despite Mac sales reaching new highs – in the next decade according to many research firms, so Apple would be setting itself up to lead the next generation: crossover devices.
Apple is in no rush with the iPad, of course. In the last quarter, over 13 million iPads were sold, but the trend is definitely on a downward slope and the iPad Pro will likely reverse this.
- For more on Apple's rumoured tablet see: iPad Pro release date, news and rumours
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Max Slater-Robins has been writing about technology for nearly a decade at various outlets, covering the rise of the technology giants, trends in enterprise and SaaS companies, and much more besides. Originally from Suffolk, he currently lives in London and likes a good night out and walks in the countryside.