avatarby Tab TimesAugust 27, 20140 comments

For over a year there’s been talk of Apple working on a so-called ‘iPad Pro’, a bigger iPad better-suited to business users and professionals. Now the rumor mill has kicked it up a notch with more speculation and unnamed sources saying release of the new iPad is all but certain for next year.

There is not much new in the way of what an iPad Pro might look like. There is still talk of a bigger, 12.9-inch screen and a bigger battery, meaning the whole package will be heavier than current models. A bundle of business-oriented productivity apps and utilities and/or services could also be included.

While some reports say the iPad Pro will be released in the first quarter of 2015, it’s also possible Apple will stick with Spring for its annual release of new iPad models. First on Apple’s agenda is a larger screen iPhone 6 due out in October.

Apple “has been working with suppliers for at least a year to develop a new range of larger touch-screen devices,” according to a report by Bloomberg, citing unnamed sources “with knowledge of the matter.”

The news comes at a time of sluggish tablet sales in general and for the iPad specifically. Sales of iPads dipped for the last two quarters after several years of consistent growth.

But businesses and professional interest in the iPad remains strong, boosted by two key events this year. First, Microsoft released iPad versions of its popular Office apps. Second, and more recently, Apple and IBM formed a partnership that will see Big Blue sell and support iPads to its corporate customers.

Apple CEO Tim Cook thinks the iPads best days are ahead. Addressing the recent drop in shipments he told Re/Code’s Walt Mossberg recently in an interview that “We couldn’t be happier with how we’ve done with the first four years of the iPad. I’d call what’s going on recently a speed bump, and I’ve seen that in every category.”

(For more news, trends and insights about the the tablet market, sign up for the free Tablet Business/Productivity Update newsletter)