Rumors and leaked information about a large—12.9-inches in this case—iPad crossed into what I consider definitely-happening territory. Taiwan-based DigiTimes reported on Monday that Apple was being cautious about ordering components for the unannounced device, and that Foxconn Electronics would be manufacturing the device.
In the years since the iPhone exploded in popularity, propelling Apple into the corporate big leagues, Apple products have evolved life cycles. They begin with dribs and drabs out of Apple's supply chain 9-18 months before release with varying degrees of accuracy, though many Apple products never see the light of day.
As Apple gets closer to putting a product in full scale production, the leaks increase in frequency and specificity. Roughly 2-4 months before Apple intends to ship the product, we hit a tipping point where the leaks and rumors collectively form a solid picture of what we can expect.
My gut feeling is that we hit such a tipping point today with the rumored "iPad Pro," a larger version of Apple's market-defining tablet. We've been hearing about this device for the last 18 months, and it was theorized and predicted long before the first hints started dripping out of Taiwan and China. When combined with other recent rumors about an iPad Pro, DigiTimes saying that Foxconn is making it is the pièce de résistance for me.
Some of you might be inclined to scoff because it's DigiTimes, but dismiss it at your peril. This publication has gone from being laughably naive—and usually wrong—a decade ago to boasting an excellent record for accuracy. In the past three years, DigiTimes has been right far more often than it's been wrong, and this close to a reported release date—mid-November, according to the report—I can't recall the last time the site was wrong.
The salient fact is that Apple's supply chain is too large, and there are far, far too many fingers and eyeballs involved in manufacturing the company's devices for Apple to keep it a secret. For many years now, the only thing Apple has been able to surprise us with are software and some services (those services not tied to third party partners).
Accordingly, look for a 12.9-inch iPad Pro this fall. It's a safe bet that Apple will announce it in late August or September with other new iPads and iPhones, and then ship it later in the year.