Apple may be preparing to introduce an upgraded iPad Air this year and will likely hold off the release of a 12.9-inch "iPad Pro" and a newer iPad mini until next year, KGI Securities Ming-Chi Kuo states in a new research note. The analyst believes that a new iPad Air with an A8 processor and Touch ID fingerprint sensor will be the only new tablet that Apple introduces this year, as the company focuses on shifting its resources from the Retina iPad Mini towards developing the 12.9-inch iPad. Kuo estimates that the larger iPad will debut early next year or late this year with limited supply.
12.9-inch iPad (left) with 13-inch MacBook Air (right)
Compared with lower-margin iPad mini with Retina display, which shipments has been tepid, higher-margin iPad Air was a hot selling item in 4Q13, which will slow Apple in developing new iPad mini models. We believe Apple plans to launch upgraded iPad Air early this year, and will accelerate development of 12.9” iPad. As such, more resources will be allocated to these two products, which will affect the progress of the development of new iPad mini. All told, we think chances of the debut of a new iPad mini in 2H14 are slim. In addition, the 12.9” iPad is unlikely to be offered in 2014. For these reasons, we predict the only new iPad product in 2H14 will be the upgraded iPad Air.
In his research note, Kuo also states that the 12.9-inch iPad will act as a driver in allowing developers to create more interactive apps for a bigger screen. However, the analyst notes that Apple has prioritized developing the operating system for the iWatch this year, with plans to release its smart watch in 2014. Kuo also predicts that Apple will restart mass production of the iPad 4 in Q1 2014 as Apple looks to wind down iPad 2 production after a three-year run, which was reported earlier this week. Overall, the analyst predicts the iPad shipments will fall from 34 million units in the 1st half of 2013 to below 30 million units in the first half of 2014.
Kuo shared similar thoughts on the possibility of a 12.9-inch iPad last October, stating that the sixth-generation iPad would contain a 30-40% higher pixel density instead of a bigger screen. Various reports throughout the past couple of months have stated that Apple is targeting a late Q3 2014 launch for the iPad Pro, with some indicating that the device could be aimed toward the enterprise market.