Apple (News - Alert) seems to be full of leaks this week. Reports from Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal say the company won't go into production with a
larger iPad until later this year, but even new features may not be locked down yet. At this point, it shouldn't be rocket science to come up with new product, but Apple seems to be stuck in fighting the obvious if reports are to be believed.
The current generation products, the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 were announced in October 2014. The iPad Air 2 was incremental improvements to its predecessor – lighter, thinner, using Apple's latest processor technologies, improved cameras, fingerprint sensor – while the Mini 3 was the same as the Mini 2, except it had a fingerprint sensor thrown in.
Since sales on the iPad have declined for four straight quarters, the Apple tablet family is looking a little weak. Apple is supposedly working on a next-generation "iPad Pro" with a 12.9 inch screen to appeal to corporate users for laptop replacements and mobile worker user. The iPad Air 2 has a 9.7 inch screen while the Microsoft (News - Alert) Surface Pro 3 has a 12 inch screen.
Other rumors say Apple is "thinking" about putting in at least one USB 3.0 port for faster data transfer speeds between it and other devices. More USB ports may be included beyond the current Lightning port to even add things like a keyboard and mouse.
It sounds an awful lot like a Surface Pro 3, except running iOS instead of Windows, doesn't it?
To the OCD-types at Apple, building a tablet that could actually substitute for a laptop has to be causing some serious internal angst. Dogma, as dictated by Apple founder Steven Jobs and others, was that the tablet was mostly for consuming media, rather than creating it, while laptop (Macbook) and desktop were for serious work. Support for a mouse or other pointing device was unnecessary in this purist view.
Business users, assuming Apple is finally getting around to creating a device it deems sufficient for that market, want to have mouse support if the device is going to be docked and used for doing real work, rather than having to pull one's fingers off the keyboard and moving them to the touch screen. Adding mouse support will require revising iOS and corporate philosophy to "discover" the wonders of using a tablet for a laptop replacement.
It isn't like Apple hasn't done the "No we don't, yes we do" dance before, most recently with the discovery that large screen phones are really something customers want, rather than a gimmick thought up by Samsung (News - Alert). Large screens such as the iPhone 6 Plus and Galaxy Note 4 are allegedly killing tablet sales, with Best Buy reporting table sales are down 30 percent across the industry.
If big screen phones are killing little screen tablets, such as the iPad Mini, Apple has no place to go but to a bigger tablet with more features for enterprise customers. A large Apple tablet may cannibalize MacBook sales, but the alternative is to stand still and watch overall sales decline.
Apple's other dilemma may be is if it sticks with iOS for a professional tablet and goes with Mac OS instead. Enterprise customers that have adopted iOS may not want to support Mac OS, but the desktop operating system offers a larger range of business software package already built for it. It's a tough call and continuing to support two operating systems is an issue Apple will have to deal with down the road.