Now that the long wait for a new MacBook Pro has ended anticlimactically (at least in the opinion of some of us), thoughts turn to the second generation of iPad Pros as a beacon of hope for improving the status quo in Apple computing.
Not a very lively hope given recent apparent hardening of Apple’s “take it or leave it” philosophy regarding the needs and preferences of customers who use our Apple computing devices to get actual work done productively and efficiently.
For example Tim Cook’s assertion that the iPad Pro with optional keyboard and stylus is a satisfactory replacement for a PC or (implicitly) a macOS laptop, which it isn’t, and which seems a bit like Cook attempting to channel Steve Jobs’s old ‘reality distortion field’ only failing to execute.
Part of the reason is doubtless that the iOS devices are where Apple has been concentrating most of its engineering and development resources in recent years. It’s been observed that Apple is now a smartphone company that makes personal computers and tablets serving niche markets. The iPad benefits from this concentration of focus by virtue of sharing the iOS with the iPhone and iPod touch. As veteran Apple-watcher Adam Engst observes in an excellent analysis of what obtains in the new order: “In essence, the Mac is an accessory to the iOS platform,” and “the relative success of the iPad Pro, with its Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil, suggests that Apple wants to push iOS toward the productivity market.
If that be the case, and I think it probably is, then Apple should get on with addressing the iOS’s productivity shortcomings.
Some maintain that today’s true PC replacement is effectively the large-screen smartphone, and so it may be for a sizeable cohort of users, but I can’t imagine trying to do real production work on even a 5.5-inch or 6-inch screen.
The iPad for a bright-burning interval from 2010 to 2013 was Apple’s hottest hardware offering. However it turned out that users were largely inclined to stick with their iPads much longer than smartphone users do with their phones, typically with more laptop-esque replacement intervals or even longer. My wife and my brother-in-law are both still using 2011 iPad 2s, and my own iPad Air 2 is now more than two years old. Apple needs to shake things up a bit and generate some iPad excitement.
A report by Global market research firm TrendForce Analyst Anita Wang estimates that global tablet shipments for 2016 will show an annual decline of 8.3 percent, with 2017 global shipments for 2017 forecast to fall by 5.3 percent.
Ms. Wang expects Apple to launch affordable iPad devices in 2017 to help maintain its leading brand market share, and TrendForce forecasts that more than 30 percent of tablets shipped worldwide in 2017 will have 10-inch or greater panel dimensions, with 10.X-inch screen size tablets enjoying noticeable expansion in shipment share substantially attributable to Apple launching a new 10.5-inch iPad device next year.
Japanese Apple watcher site Macotakara reported last month that unnamed “well-placed sources” were saying the first revision of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro will get a 12 million pixel iSight camera, True Tone flash, and the True Tone display technology introduced last spring with the 9.7-inch iPad Pro..
The report agreed with previous research note by KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo saying: “We expect three new iPads: (12.9” iPad Pro 2, new size 10.5” iPad Pro and low-cost 9.7” iPad) to be launched in 2017.” A 10.5-inch panel doesn’t sound much larger than the classic 9.7-inch iPad panel — – just .8 of an inch — but it would be just a smige smaller in area than the Microsoft Surface screen (10.8″) but presumably with higher Retina resolution and a 10.5-inch unit sounds like an attractive mid-size alternative. Ming-Chi Kuo’s forecast doesn’t sound promising for an iPad mini 5, and perhaps not not for a 9.7-inch iPad Pro 2 either. Other recent rumors say the 10.5-inch unit will retain the footprint of the current 9.7-inch iPad Pro, with the larger panel size enabled by expanding its area to the device’s bezel margins and possibly doing away with the analog Home button.
It will be interesting to see what system-on-chip Apple puts in a “low cost” 9.7-inch iPad. Most likely the A9X. Pro models, presumably including the 10.5-ich unit, should get A10 power in 2017. So when in the new year might we see new or upgraded iPad hardware? Ming-Chi Kuo just says 2017. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro is now more than a year old without revision, while the 9.7-inch Pro’s first anniversary comes March 3. Late-winter/early spring has been a traditional iPad hardware announcement time slot, and Macotakara’s sources say the revised iPads will ship in the spring of 2017.