The fruit-themed gadget maker had been expected to widen its iPad portfolio in 2017 by releasing a third 10.5-inch option between the existing 9.7-inch iPad Pro and the larger 12.9-inch iPad Pro. However, it appears that both of those units are also expected to receive hardware upgrades this year. The smallest model is expected to be in volume production in the first quarter, while the largest model may begin volume production around the May to June timeframe previously expected for the 10.5-inch model.
According to supply chain sources, the company will be holding a launch event in early April to coincide with the inauguration of its new 175-acre “Apple Park” spaceship campus, where it will migrate more than 12,000 employees through the summer. The Cupertino-based headquarters will be home to a new facility named the Steve Jobs Theater, and this is likely the prime venue chosen for the iPad Spring refresh announcement, along with any product launches in the foreseeable future.
The 10.5-inch iPad is expected to target students and teachers providing digital learning resources, along with business users who use collaboration tools, create content and analyze data. Together, the 10.5 and 12.9-inch models are expected to become Apple’s primary sellers for the mainstream and high-end markets, while the 9.7-inch model orders continue to remain steady and will grow more significantly in the second quarter.
Apple’s iPad sales decreased sharply by about 20 percent in 2016, though most consumers still end up buying its products because of tight OS integration, less app store fragmentation, and more focus on drawing appeal from nifty magnetic accessory connectors and keyboard cases rather than the latest hardware features.
Regular iPads outpacing iPad Pros by 10 to 1
As we mentioned earlier last month, tablet sales in general experienced a 15.6 percent decline last year compared to 2015, particularly those identified as “slate tablets” – or units not including a dedicated keyboard. For now, the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini continue to account for the majority of Apple’s shipments. IDC Research says that for every ten slate tablets the company shipped, it only managed to sell one iPad Pro tablet.
Meanwhile, the company expects shipment volumes for its 9.7-inch iPad Pro to reach between three to four million units per month by the end of the first quarter, followed by more significant growth in the second quarter. Initial shipments of the 10.5-inch iPad are expected to reach one million units by the end of March, followed by a more aggressive ramp-up to 1.2 million units per month in the second quarter with more growth expected.