Update: We've got new rumours about the iPad Pro's screen, processor and possibly a new name.
With Apple's thinner, lighter iPad Air (and now iPad Air 2) and Retina display-equipped iPad mini 3 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" - yet more recently we've also seen references to an "iPad Air Plus." 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 invited the press to a "special event" October 24, but the iPad Pro was nowhere to be found, with the company instead choosing to launch the iPad Air 2 and OS X 10.10 Yosemite.
Apple did something interesting with the launch of its fifth generation iPad (aside from a total hardware revamp): Gave it a new name. The iPad Air alluded to the Cupertino's 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 now looking at 2015 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?"
At the moment most people are referring to the upcoming iPad as the iPad Pro. However, recent leaks refer to it as the iPad Air Plus. This might be down to an incorrect leak or translation, but it does follow Apple's naming convention with the iPhone 6 Plus.
Cut to the chase What is it? A brand new, larger iPad When will it release? 2015 What will it cost? Likely somewhere between the iPad Air and MacBook Air
iPad Pro release date
According to Japanese news website Macotakara, Apple is eyeing a 2015 release date for the iPad Air Plus, which it claims will arrive in the form of a 12.2-inch tablet that will come with a detachable keyboard to square up against business-friendly devices like Microsoft's Surface Pro 3.
The website reckons that the device will also feature a set of speakers and microphones on the top and bottom edges, which could function in a similar fashion to how the iPad 2 handles stereo sound. Details are sketchy, but the report also points to the possibility of an iSight camera, Touch ID sensor and Lightning connector.
So why isn't it here already? Another rumour claims the iPhone 6 was to blame for the iPad Pro delay. According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple's suppliers struggled to keep up with demand for its latest smartphone, which had a knock-on effect by pushing the iPad Pro back to 2015.
Word from the supply chain cited by Digitismes, reckons that Apple has a 12.9-inch iPad Pro in the works that will arrive in early 2015. If true, it could be worth the wait, as that report claims that the slate will run a hybrid OS X and iOS-integrated operating system.
If that happens, reports from Taiwan that point to the iPad Pro as housing a more powerful version of the A8 chipset found in the iPhone 6 start to make a bit more sense.
One of the most credible updates – reports of a larger iPad release - peg it as right on track for a 2015 release date, Bloomberg reports, citing "people with knowledge of the matter," that an iPad Pro will enter production early next year. (The whole gamut of rumors and reports follow.)
A 2015 release date is further backed up by Korea Times' sources at a "local first-tier display supplier" who say a single version will launch "sometime early next year" with a nearly UHD resolution.
China's United Daily News point to another iPad Pro manufacturing partner: 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 of the two.
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.
According to a report published by KGI Securities, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo doesn't expect that Apple will be ready to launch the pro-grade tablet until 2015.
A recent leak published by Macotakara again hints at a release date at sometime between April and June 2015. This new leak suggests that Apple will also launch an improved iPad mini 4 alongside the iPad Pro.
Apple teams up with IBM
In order to further its lead in the enterprise space through BYOD, Apple partnered up with IBM to create new business-focused apps for iOS. This includes exclusive apps created by Apple and IBM in tandem ranging from data and analytics to device management and security.
While this move is currently just to increase the amount of existing iOS devices in the office, is there a better way to grease the wheels for a pro-centric iOS device? Not without spending a ton more cash, that's for sure.
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."
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.
An image supposedly showing an iPad Pro dummy unit has made its way into the wild and it certainly looks closer to 13 inches than 12.
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.
A later leak published by the same website appeared to show schematics of the iPad Pro which claimed the dimensions of the tablet will be 305.31mm x 220.8mm x 7mm. The 7mm thickness would indeed make the iPad Pro thinner than the iPhone 6 Plus, though not quite as thin as the iPad Air 2, which is just 6.1mm thick.
iOS 8, iPen and iPad Pro keyboard case
iPad Pro keyboard case
Back before the iPad Air unveiling, former Apple fellow Jamie Ryan claimed to have heard from current Apple employees that an iPad keyboard case was in the prototyping stage. Ryan went on to say that the keyboard case mimicked the Microsoft Surface Touch Cover.
While it didn't make the latest iPad debut, the iPad Pro would provide the perfect stage for the reveal of Apple's proprietary iPad keyboard case. Ideally, this keyboard would connect physically to the tablet much like the Smart Cover does today, but use Bluetooth for the interaction. Plus, an included keyboard would all but be a must for a professional-grade tablet.
Ask and ye shall receive! As of March 27, Apple has released a patent detailing a keyboard cover, combed over by none other than AppleInsider. The patent illustration paints the picture of something similar to the existing iPad Smart Cover, but with a detachable portion replete with touch-sensitive keys. Now, you tell me what a keyboard cover would be ideal for.
What would an iPad Pro be with an iPen?
Despite late Apple chief Steve Jobs's derisive comments on styluses before, rumor has it that the Mac maker just might go through with creating a stylus for the would-be iPad Pro. The above image comes from one of Apple's alleged 20 patent filings regarding a potential iPen, Patenly Apple reports.
While it might sound silly for Apple to head down this road, it might be a necessary move. Lacking a stylus could be a ding against a potential iPad Pro when the business-minded Galaxy Note Pro line rocks Samsung's S-Pen.
Patently Apple strikes again, unveiling even more Apple patents for a possible iPen accessory. This time, details include potential features like a laser pointer, the ability to project images and scanning capabilities among other. If Apple really is to make an iPen, it will be more than just any old smart stylus.
iPad Pro, meet iOS 8
While no rumors specifically point to this, it's pretty much a given that the iPad Pro will run the latest iOS. If the pro-level pad launches in October 2014, then this is almost a certainty, as we expect iOS 8 to launch alongside the awaited iPhone 6 in September. However, our friends at MacLife seem to disagree.
The latest rumor, as of May 13th, surrounding iOS 8 makes it sound as if the refreshed operating system will be crafted with larger screens in mind across the board. 9to5Mac recently reported that iOS 8 will ape split-screen multitasking from devices like Microsoft's Surface. That would definitely be an iPad Pro-ductivity booster. Get it? I'm here all week, try the veal.
iPad Pro storage
This is Apple's chance to differentiate the iPad Pro from the iPad Air even further. Professionals expect lots of space from their computing platform of choice, and while the current 128GB iPadmaximum is nice, it might not be enough.
Of course, a 256GB, 12.9-inch iPad would cost a small fortune, but what does the end user care when it's on company dollar?
iPad Pro home button
You can bet the farm that Apple will include its TouchID technology into the iPad Pro home button. Fingerprint security has become all but a must-have feature on enterprise laptops, and this professional iPad will have to meet that standard to gain better traction.
Rumors point to an iPhone 6 prototype having no home button, according to Business Insider. But that seems an unlikely fate for both devices, given that the iDevice form factor is minimalist enough as is.
2K (or 4K) screen, processor and more
iPad Pro screen
This is where things get way interesting. First, the Korea Times reported, citing Apple's "local first-tier display supplier," that the 12.9-inch iPad Pro will sport an almost-UHD resolution when it arrives in early 2014.
A later rumor, this time from China's Pad News, pointed to both 2K and 4K resolution iPad Pro models in the works. Per the story, Apple is prototyping a 2K model that would likely exceed that of the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9's 2560 x 1600 (339 pixels per inch) and blow away the iPad Air's 2048 x 1536 (264 ppi).
A 4K iPad Pro would likely come in around 4096 x 3072, beating the 4K TVs available today.
Again, this shouldn't be a major shocker. The iPad Pro will almost undoubtedly use a beefier version of Apple's 64-bit A7 chip, if not the new A8X processor or even a completely new A9 chip.
It will be interesting to see whether 64-bit processing has an effect on the iPad Pro's enterprise capabilities. But what will be even more important is Intel's response to such a product, given its long-standing relationship with Apple on the MacBook line, Daily Finance suggests.
We don't have much more information about the A9 processor at the moment, but if it does exist then it looks like it will be an upgrade from the A8X processor found in the iPad Air 2.
iPad Pro camera
Not much, if anything, has been said of the iPad Pro's shooter. Given that this tablet will be as large as (although lighter than) a number of laptops, we wouldn't be concerned too much with what kind of photos the tablet can take.
More important will be the iPad Pro's front-facing webcam. Will we see a higher resolution snapper on the front for quality video conferencing? Well, we sure hope so. A truly HD webcam would get heavy travelers more jazzed about an iPad than ever.
iPad Pro eye tracking
To put an even finer point on the importance of the iPad Pro's webcam, Apple would be remiss not to include eye tracking technology. The company has already seen startups like uMoove interested in providing the tech, and IBT's sources claim that this will be a key feature.
The iPhone 6 is expected to come with eye tracking. Now, all that's left is to implement them in a way that makes sense on an iPad Pro. Sharing with others what we're looking at on our own screens in conference calls immediately comes to mind.