Big Delay Waylays Big iPad

Apple watchers likely will have to wait until September to see if the rumors about a bigger iPad are true.

Apple suppliers have been told that production of the rumored 12.9-inch iPad Pro won’t ramp up until the second half of this year, The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg reported Thursday.

Rumors about a bigger iPad have been in circulation for months, fueling expectations that Apple would announce the so-called iPad Pro this quarter.

Problems with the display panels for the device were responsible for the delays, Bloomberg reported.

Apple’s decision to rework what it wants in the unit led to the delay, according to the Journal.

The big pad reportedly will feature a number of USB 3.0 ports, technology for speeding up charging, and ports for a keyboard and mouse.

Apple declined to comment for this story.

Yield Hang-Ups?

Delays due to weak display supply seem unlikely, suggested Bob O’Donnell, founder and chief analyst at Technalysis Research.

“Unless Apple is doing something very different, a standard 12.9-inch LCD — even with high resolution — is no problem for suppliers to make these days,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

“Six months is a large supply delay for a display,” O’Donnell added.

If the problem isn’t a supply issue, it could be a glitch in the production process.

“Apple usually does a good job of having enough lines to spit these things out, but the yield may not be good enough,” said Michael Morgan, an independent mobile devices analyst.

“If you end up with 20-30 percent of your displays rejected, that’s a huge problem and waste of money,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

With iPad sales declining, it’s possible a larger iPad would infuse new life into to the tablet market, as well as expand the appeal of the platform in the enterprise.

Not a Mainstream Choice

iPad sales slipped steadily in 2014, from US$8 billion in the first quarter to $5 billion in the third quarter before bouncing back to $9 billion during the holiday quarter. Units shipped declined in every quarter in 2014 compared to the previous year.

The introduction of a bigger iPad isn’t likely to change those numbers dramatically, noted Technalysis’ O’Donnell. “A 12.9-inch iPad is not going to sell in the same numbers as a regular iPad.”

“It’s an interesting market, but it won’t be a mainstream choice,” he added. “It will be a small portion of the market. It’s definitely not a solution to fix the tablet market.”

Among other problems is the cannibalization of small tablet sales by smartphones with larger screens. Also, tablet lifetimes are significantly longer than once expected, O’Donnell explained.

“A bigger iPad wouldn’t be a huge change for Apple’s business or any vendor’s business,” commented Jeff Orr, senior practice director for mobile devices at ABI Research.

Need Content Creation

Could big tablets be a surprise hit — just as 7-8 inch tablets were when they entered the market?

“I don’t think the market opportunity scales just because someone creates a larger-screen tablet,” Orr told the E-Commerce Times. “I’m not sure that going to 12.9 is significantly changing the addressable market.”

One of the markets often cited in connection with larger tablets is the enterprise — but if that’s truly the niche Apple is targeting, then it may have to rethink its tablet strategy.

“There has to be a fundamentally different approach taken for business applications — more toward the productivity angle rather than the consumption of content, which has been a strong point for tablets and the iPad family to this point,” Orr pointed out.

“That suggests a larger screen needs not only higher resolution, but it needs to support multiple, concurrent running applications,” he added.

“Those types of enhancements need to occur,” said Orr, “to address the way that business users will expect this device to fit into their active day.”

John Mello is a freelance technology writer and contributor to Chief Security Officer magazine. You can connect with him on Google+.

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