There was no sign or mention of a long-rumored and much anticipated 10.5-inch iPad Pro in Apple’s product announcements last week. The exciting iPad news was release of an upgraded iPad Air with a faster processor and a brighter display with the high-value starting price of $329 which is a significant and welcome development in the iPad space. Just not the one iPad power users had been hoping for.
However, there’s growing indication that a new 10.5-inch iPad Pro and an upgraded 12.9-inch version are still coming in the near-term future. Forbes contributor Brooke Crothers reports that Tablets and PCs Director Rhoda Alexander at newly-merged technology market analytics firm https://technology.ihs.com IHS Markit told him last week that with 10.5-inch iPad Pro production reportedly started in March, a product release in April is conceivable, although appearing “somewhat tentative” at this point.
Earlier this month Digitimes’ Siu Han and Steve Shen reported that their insider sources at Taiwan-based supply chain subcontractors told them Apple had bumped production startup for a new 10.5-inch iPad to March, ahead of a previously scheduled May-June production ramp-up, and suggest the new iPad form factor’s public unveiling could come at an early April special event marking the opening of Apple’s spectacular new headquarters at Cupertino, California.
Han and Shen say Apple will target education and enterprise users with the 10.5-inch iPad Pro, which along with an upgraded 12.9-inch iPad Pro will be promoted as Apple’s mainstream products for the mid-tier to high-end tablet market in 2017, although production schedule for an upgraded 12.9-inch iPad Pro 2 remains unclear, but with the sources speculating that volume production may kick off in May or June.
What might be holding back the iPad Pro announcements could be constipation in the component supply chain. The word is that the initial production startup has been “limited,” But Ms. Alexander observed to Brooke Crothers that “Apple’s been known to do fairly fast ramp ups in the past,” and there’s a possibility they might also do a phased release, adding more countries and markets as production volume accelerates.
Crothers observes that the new $329 iPad opens the door to pricing the 10.5-inch iPad Pro at the current 9.7-inch iPad Pro’s $599 entry point, and slotting the 9.7-inch Pro model, if one is still offered, somewhere between those starting price points.
On the other hand, Daring Fireball blogger and veteran Apple pundit John Gruber says while a new 10.5-inch iPad Pro with the same footprint as current 9.7-inch models but with slimmer screen bezels allowing the larger display makes sense, what doesn’t make sense to him is spring rollout timing, what with new iPhones expected in September speculated to include a model or models featuring edge-to-edge panels enabled in part by flexible OLED display technology. Gruber reasons that Apple wouldn’t want the iPad Pro to steal any edge-to-edge display announcement thunder from its flagship product. He suggests that Apple will stick with an upgrade of the Pro iPads in their current form factors for 2017, with new edge-to-edge-display/reduced-bezels design language and OLED technology iPads not arriving until 2018.
Maybe, but my take is that there’s too much 10.5-inch iPad Pro scuttlebutt about for there not to be a hardware release coming somewhat sooner than next year. I’ve seen nothing to indicate that the 10.5-inch iPad Pro will use an OLED technology panel or a literal edge-to-edge display design — just slimmer screen bezels, so there will still be plenty of pop in an OLED screen iPhone announcement.
Moreover, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, a usually reliable prognosticator of Apple hardware releases, who forecast Apple’s launch of a low-cost 9.7-inch iPad, also predicts 10.5-inch iPad Pro and an upgraded 12.9-inch iPad Pro releases sometime in 2017. He’s been right so far.