updated 11:25 pm EDT, Mon August 11, 2014
No change in sizes, but anti-reflective coating may be included
According to Bloomberg and unnamed sources, Apple has begun production of the next iteration of the iPad and iPad mini, which is expected to be announced sometime either near the end of the current quarter or the beginning of the next quarter in time for holiday-season sales. The article reveals that the screen sizes on the two devices are likely to stay the same, but may now include an anti-reflective coating that is said to help make the device easier to see outdoors.
This is unlikely to be the only change in the next-generation iPads, of course. Both are likely to receive new, faster processors and graphics, an improved camera and of course will run the forthcoming iOS 8 software. Apple CEO Tim Cook appeared to hint at further changes coming to the line, shrugging off some disappointing sales figures in the previous quarter by saying the company was "very bullish about the future of the tablet market, and we're confident that we can continue to bring significant innovation to this category through hardware, software and services." He added that the new partnership with IBM "will be one such catalyst for future iPad growth."
Assuming the report of a start to production is true, it is possible that Apple will be hard-pressed to meet expected demand for the latest model. While pundits ponder the disappointing dip the iPad has suffered in the past two quarters, studies suggest that the "turnover" cycle on iPads is closer to that of computers rather than the bi-annual ritual of upgrading iPhones.
Though iOS adoption is overwhelmingly fast, the need to move from one iPad to another is less urgent, thanks to strong backward compatibility. Owners of the 2011 iPad 2 -- which can still run the latest OS version and will be compatible at least on a basic level with iOS 8 -- don't feel much pressure to upgrade unless the things they are doing on the device or the software they wish to run on it requires doing so. The primary selling point for current iPad upgrades is the greatly-reduced weight and size of later models, followed by an enhanced ability to play games.
The next iPad may benefit from changes more often associated with the upcoming iPhone 6 and the increasing partnership between iOS and OS X. Handoff and Continuity features, for example, are expected to be available on the next iPad. One of the most popular features of the iPhone 5s, the Touch ID button, is also expected to make its iPad debut, and may prove a strong driver for upgraders. The HealthKit and HomeKit features that help manage fitness and smart home devices should also be present, alongside hardware improvements like 802.11ac compatibility, Bluetooth 4.0 enhancements and improved cameras.
RBC Capital Markets analyst Amit Daryanani is hopeful that the new models will "stabilize the iPad's revenue and profitability contribution to the company," noting that the days of incredibly rapid adoption are probably in the past. However, there could also be some pent-up demand for the new iPad from second-, third- and fourth-generation iPad owners who may decide the time is right for an upgrade or a lateral move to the iPad mini, which is said to be the more popular of the two models.