“There is nothing as unavoidable as inevitability." -- Anon.
Product lines tend to expand as the technology evolves. The user base grows to include people with new needs. Competition heats up. And so it's only logical that Apple would introduce, after this long hiatus in iPads, a model with a larger display than 9.7-inches.
There are those who say that a larger, heavier iPad would defeat the classic ease of use of a 10-inch or smaller 7-inch tablet. I think that reasoning derives from two factors. First, we've become all too accustomed to the current sizes. Second, we haven't thought deeply about the utility of a larger display.
Who would want a larger iPad?
- Hospitals: office use vs. mobility
- Pilots: more readable maps
- Aircraft maintenance: enlarged schematics
- Retail sales: better product displays.
- Hotels: wall and concierge services
- Engineering: CAD tools
- Photographers: more camera megapixels means a need for larger displays
- Artists: larger working area
- Medicine: better views of MRIs, X-rays, etc.
- Magazine editors, readers: full size display, more readable content
- Newspapers: same as above
- Science & technology: Visualization and presentation
- Education: Big screen classroom demos by teachers. No need for HDTVs.
After all, Apple is looking to put the nail in the coffin of PCs by, amongst other things, giving away iWork. If professionals are going to create serious content on iPads, they are going to need a larger canvas. (Here's a concept developed by Mac Rumors, used with permission.)
Image source & credit: Mac Rumors (used with permission)
Another factor is that an owner of an iPad 2 or 3 or 4 may not be highly motivated to update to a new 9.7-inch iPad 5 in the same way they happily embrace a new iPhone every year. iPads aren't subsidized. However, as Apple made the case for the iPad mini with a smaller display, if Apple provides customers with solid case for a larger display, especially in the enterprise, then the company will capture sales that might never have happened otherwise.
As the saying goes, compete with yourself or someone else will.
What size would it be? For starters, one could start with the notion that an appealing, larger iPad would present roughly twice the surface area of a 9.7-inch iPad. Doing the math, that works out to about a 14 inch diagonal display. But 13 or 15 inches are possibilities.
Battery life. I'm making the assumption that the iPad electronics would stay the same size and the additional volume inside would accomodate a battery that could maintain the customary 10 hours of battery life. One bit of evidence to support my thesis is the rumor about a new Apple 17 watt power supply. That's bigger than needed for a 9.7-inch iPad but not big enough for a MacBook.
Memory. An iPhone 5s only has a gigabyte of RAM, and that has led some observers to scoff at the idea that it needs a 64-bit CPU in order to break the 4 GB RAM limit. But that A7 SoC, or a variant, is definitely going to make it into the next generation iPad, and a large screen iPad, along with advanced 64-bit software tools, for the uses I've cited above could well benefit from more than 4 GB of RAM. It's inevitable.
Luggability. Many would argue that a larger iPad would be too heavy to carry around conveniently all the time. The recent emphasis by Apple (and now Amazon) has been towards lighter iPads, not heavier. My argument is that the product gets used in the manner for which it's designed. 9.7-inch iPads and smaller are very portable. A larger iPad would tend to be used in a more fixed environment, yet still be mobile when needed.
Mac Integration. Most customers don't want iOS-ification. Instead, they want compatibility between Macs and iPads. What that often entails is seeing the same thing, at the same size on an iPad and a Mac. Right now, the smallest Mac has an 11-inch display and the largest iPad has a 9.7-inch display. A 15-inch iPad would match up nicely with the 15-inch MacBooks and lead to potential synergy.
I'm not suggesting that Apple tout a 13/14/15-inch iPad with a keyboard that closes up to protect the display. Microsoft tried that concept and failed, even as the occasional iPad user connectss a Bluetooth keyboard. However, it does open the door to the day when we've figured out how to do all our work on a larger display iPad, close to what we were accustomed to on our MacBooks.
I have written before about the natural evolution of the iPad family in the Post-PC era. I believe that it's inevitable that we'll see iPads with displays larger than 9.7-inches. It's technically feasible; Apple is just waiting for the market potential to mature. I think it's finally arrived. Finally, my thanks to David Marsden for some inspiration and discussion about all this.
"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” - Albert Einstein