After months of rumors and reports, Apple is finally expected to take the wraps off its fifth-generation iPad and second-generation iPad mini in San Francisco on October 22.
Press invites have been sent out and yet – as it stands – few details are known about the tablets.
The iPad 5 is widely-reported to have slimmer bezels, giving it the appearance of a bigger iPad mini, while Apple’s smaller tablet will likely offer a Retina Display for the first time. There have also been reports of greater color choice.
However, while that sliver of information is unlikely to much comfort iPad-toting enterprise workers or be news to the most ardent Apple fanboy, there have been signs that Apple’s next full-size tablet could be for serious business.
The clues came last month, when Apple announced the iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S. The latter in particular gained the plaudits for its Touch ID fingerprint sensor and 64-bit processor architecture – a first for any smartphone – and subsequently there has speculation that both could be on tap for the hotly anticipated iPad 5.
64-bit A7 processor will improve tablet multi-tasking
Such excitement has fed through to market researchers, many of whom have already boldly predicted that a 64-bit iPad could compete directly with the PC in the working world.
In a recent research note, Deutsche Bank Equity Research analyst Chris Whitmore hinted that such a model would pressurize corporate PCs and said that it would fuel further enterprise app development too.
“We expect growing [desktop] virtualization and iPad deployments in the enterprise to pressure corporate PC sales through 2014-2015”, read an excerpt from the note.
“We expect AAPL’s [Apple’s] iPad refresh to include 64 bit architecture, which should enable a greater array of enterprise app development and facilitate greater enterprise penetration over time.”
Expanding on that last point in the days afterwards, Whitmore said that the iPad would reduce the risks companies would have to take on mobile app development.
“Enhanced security & 64-bit architecture should drive enterprise penetration,” admitted the analyst. “We believe enhanced security functionality on iOS hardware is likely to drive greater enterprise penetration over time (e.g. fingerprint and password authentication).
“In addition, moving to a 64-bit architecture is important to enterprise for several reasons. First, it ‘future proofs’ app development and protects investment for the migration to 64-bit computing over time. In short, enabling 64-bit allows enterprises to build custom apps for iPads with greatly reduced obsolescence risk.”
Away from the app development efforts and Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi told TabTimes that workers – and IT departments — would also see productivity benefits.
“I think the 64-bit architecture will be very interesting for enterprises and what they could do from a multitasking perspective, but also for app development for real productivity – beyond email that is.
“Many organisations have not done as much as they could with iPads, not because of the device per se, but because they have not thought about the device more in terms of replacement vs. companion [for a laptop or PC].
Hybrid iPad could have special cover, compete with Surface Pro
Along with the reports of the 64-bit A7 processor and the likelihood of the iPad 5 having the Touch ID fingerprint sensor, there has been the mere suggestion that the tablet will be a hybrid form factor.
It started with Apple’s press invite, which not-so subtly hinted at a new accessory by saying “we still have a lot to cover”.
Quizzed on what a hybrid iPad would entail, Milanesi said that it could make sense, but urged caution in the chance that Tim Cook and co are playing mind games.
“There could be a cover, or it could be Apple's game with words to get us to think so,” said the Gartner analyst.
“Given the many hybrids devices and Apple’s move into iPhone covers, it would make sense to have something different from what we have had so far. I am sure that they could find a way to justify why they have a keyboard when they have been saying you do not need one”.
Although unlikely at this stage, analysts have been mulling the idea of a 12.9-inch iPad, previously reported by The Wall Street Journal among others, and one believes that the device would “start another wave of notebook cannibalization”.
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Barclays researcher Ben Reitzes told investors last week that a large iPad would be “more compelling than a Mac” and would act as a direct replacement for the PC, providing Apple got it right.
“The whole iOS app ecosystem, extra-long battery life, ultra portability and user familiarity could be more compelling than a Mac if Apple made a true effort," wrote Reitzes in comments first reported by CNET.
"And we believe a larger screened iPad would be a much better PC replacement than current tablets, including the Surface, and really be able to take on higher end tasks and start another wave of notebook cannibalization."
ABI Research’s Dan Shey, who heads up the enterprise unit, isn’t convinced that a 12-inch iPad would come to market but believes that larger tablets will change the way workers use these devices in a work setting.
“Mobile field force workers and some specific white collar fields like doctors and nurses prefer smaller tablets as they are more portable – for doctors it can fit in their lab coat.
“However, a 12-inch tablet will likely find preference in verticals using them for POS, kiosk displays and even for use in hospitality of restaurants and hotels. Artists, designers and perhaps real estate agents will prefer a larger screen.”
(To learn about how iPad, tablets and apps empower employees and customers, attend TabletBiz conference & expo in New York on Nov. 13. There are still a few free passes for IT managers)