Apple's iPad Air has received overwhelming praise as the best full-size tablet you can buy, and it'll likely rack up sales records for this past holiday season. And why not? It's lighter, thinner, smaller, and faster than its predecessor. In fact, it's so "impossibly light" that Jason Snell described handling it as being "like picking up a movie prop." Thus the obvious rationale for adding the word Air to the iPad's moniker.
Still, it's tempting to consider a potential second implication of the name change. Apple sells another product with "Air" in its name: the MacBook Air. It's marketed as an entry-level laptop, with the MacBook Pro as the alternative for those who crave more power and higher-end options. While predicting Apple's future product releases is often a fool's errand, I believe the introduction of an iPad Air suggests that an "iPad Pro" is in the works for 2014.
That's the easy prediction. The hard one is describing exactly what an iPad Pro might be. In particular, how would Apple distinguish an iPad Pro from the iPad Air and iPad mini? Understanding that I am about to go so far out on a limb that it might well break beneath me, here's my speculation.
Will an iPad Pro have a larger display than the iPad Air?
This would almost certainly be the primary distinguishing feature of an iPad Pro. How much larger? There are rumors that Apple has already settled on a 12.9 inch display. This strikes me as just about right. It places the iPad Pro at around the same display size as 13-inch MacBooks. Furthermore, it would allow for a clear separation between the three iPad models: 7.9 inch mini; 9.7 inch Air; and 12.9 inch Pro.
Will an iPad Pro include Touch ID?
Apple's Touch ID fingerprint detection debuted this past fall on the iPhone 5s. The 5s remains the only Apple product to include this feature thus far, and while many people had hoped to see Touch ID on the iPad Air, that didn't happen. Apple might well reserve the option for the debut of an iPad Pro, but if so, it will almost certainly be only a temporary distinction. Within a year or two, I anticipate that Touch ID will be included in almost all iOS devices.
Will an iPad Pro be a laptop-tablet hybrid?
There's been, of late, much debate about the ideal mobile computer: If you can have only one, should it be a laptop or a tablet? Or is neither sufficient on its own? A potential solution to this dilemma is for one device to serve as both, as Microsoft has attempted with the Surface.
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