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Apple's interest in supersized iPad signals mimicry of Microsoft

Gregg Keizer | July 24, 2013
'2-in-1' could be in the cards, say analysts, envisioning a Surface-like iOS productivity device

Apple's reported interest in a larger iPad tablet with a 13-in. screen shows that the Cupertino Calif. company is thinking along some of the same lines as its rival Microsoft, analysts said today.

"A 13-in. iPad would be an improved productivity device, particularly when connected by a wireless keyboard, [and] would be like a Windows 8 detachable," said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, in an email Monday. "The improvement in content creation and editing [would come from] being able to see more of the content."

Moorhead and others envisioned a larger iPad — Apple's current tablet line maxes out at 9.7-in. — as a hybrid combining traits of traditional personal computers and touch-enabled tablets.

Microsoft has placed a huge bet on that category — which it dubs "2-in-1" to reflect the dual threat — by pitching its own Surface line as such, and encouraging its OEM partners to get more creative in what defines a PC.

Is Apple leaning that way, too?

Earlier today, the Wall Street Journal, citing sources at Apple's Asian component suppliers, claimed the U.S. company has asked for designs and prototypes of 13-in. tablet screens.

While Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, could see a 13-in. iPad as simply a supersized tablet — a "coffee table tablet," as he put it — that size would also lend itself to a thin, battery-sipping device somewhere between Apple's current tablets and its MacBook Air.

"Apple long ago gave up the keyboard-based device market outside of the wealthiest countries," said Gottheil, referring to Apple's miniscule personal computer market share. "But with the price and portability of a tablet, a way to couple the keyboard with the tablet and some basic windowing in iOS, they could complement the MacBook Air on the lower [price] end."

If Apple was serious about a bigger iPad — as the Wall Street Journal noted, prototypes do not a shipping product make — Carolina Milanesi of Gartner also imagined it as a 2-in-1, but by necessity.

"A 13-in. [iPad] would only make sense if it came with a clamshell design and a detachable screen, as a piece of glass that big needs securing," said Milanesi via email. "But it also implies a use case more similar to a notebook, [that] basically you sit down more than walk around with it."

A move on 2-in-1 devices would require some tap dancing by Apple executives, who have ridiculed Microsoft and its tablet-plus-notebook concept.

In April 2012, CEO Tim Cook dismissed the idea that Apple would imitate Redmond and its partners. "Anything can be forced to converge. You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but those things are probably not going to be pleasing to the user," Cook said then. "We're not going to that party."

 

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