Apple said to be preparing larger iPad for 2015: Could it drive vital enterprise growth?

A larger iPad may seem uninspiring to some, as the existing line-up of tablets begins to stagnate in sales figures. But there are three reasons why it might make sense.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor
Image: CNET/CBS Interactive

Apple is slated to build a 12.9-inch iPad in the coming year, according to a new report.

Bloomberg, citing sources familiar with the plans, said on Tuesday the Cupertino, Calif.-based technology giant will in early-2015 begin producing the larger tablet — a bump from the existing 9.7-inch iPad, and the 7.9-inch iPad mini.

Apple declined to comment on the report. No surprise there.

It's not the first time Apple has been said to be preparing a larger tablet. But now the many pieces of Apple's growing enterprise business — and industry collaboration — are beginning to fall into place.

To wit:

Apple's enterprise business is slowing: The iPad line is decreasing in market share, Apple's quarterly earnings show. Although the tablet's share stands at about 99 percent in the Fortune 500 list of companies, its penetration rate is just 20 percent. Apple's chief executive Tim Cook said on the company's fiscal third-quarter earnings call that this could be far better. 

Still, Apple requires a catalyst to drive this market growth again, after numerous fiscal quarters' worth of decline and stagnation. Gartner data showed that Apple's iOS software had 36 percent in market share in 2013, down from 53 percent a year earlier. Consumers may have driven the initial spike in iPad uptake, but enterprise is where the revenue gravy train is.

Apple-IBM deal now has even more promise: By tying the collaboration knot, Apple and IBM are set to provide more than a hundred new, industry-specific apps for business customers. It's a win-win for both. Apple gains more share in the enterprise market, while IBM gets to sprinkle its own services directly into customers' hands.

Up until now, enterprise apps have either been ports from iPhone, or web-based and lacking luster. As Cook put it on the call: "Not all of the enterprise apps written for iPad have... taken full advantage of mobile."

Both companies have a stake in the partnership, but Apple has to make its devices work for the enterprise a little more. The company missed on revenue estimates in its fiscal third-quarter earnings as a result of a steep decline in iPad sales expectations.

Split-screen support is on its way with iOS 8: And what could really drive home the prior two points is the software iPads run. iOS 8, which is expected to launch in line with the iPhone 6's release, is also slated to include a Windows 8-esque split-screen mode, sister-site CNET reported in June. 

Having two apps open at the same time will surely drive enterprise users on the productivity front. But existing full-sized iPads may struggle in how much can be displayed side-by-side — a reported quarter, half, and three-quarters width of the entire display. Despite the widely accepted flop of Windows 8, the "snapping" feature remains a strong feature for those who use multiple apps at the same time. Apple has yet to introduce fully-fledged multitasking.

Once it nails it, a larger iPad can accommodate more space for the apps you need access to at the same time.

Bottom line: Those three things tied together could provide the pieces that make enterprise customers salivate at the thought of a larger iPad.

Although mobility is key, a larger iPad may not be the defining or striking feature going here. But as a notebook replacement goes, it may be just be what puts the final nail in the traditional PC market's coffin.

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