We've heard this one before. Or rather, we've heard these two Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) rumors before: one related to hardware and the other related to software. They just haven't materialized -- yet.
9to5Mac is reporting that Apple is still hard at work on the 12.9-inch "iPad Pro" that was initially rumored last year to be in development. Early reports suggested that Apple planned to launch the device in early 2015. That hasn't played out, but that doesn't mean that it won't come eventually.
The other speculation involves split-screen multitasking where users could view two apps simultaneously. For years, Apple has tried to combat the perception that the iPad is predominantly a consumption device, focusing its efforts on bolstering the tablet's productivity prowess.
Split-screen multitasking is an important feature in that regard, and one that is at the center of Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) positioning with its productivity-oriented Surface and Surface Pro devices. Split-screen multitasking was expected in last year's iOS 8, but was reportedly pulled at the last minute because it wasn't ready for prime time.
An additional software feature that's on the way is support for multiple users to login to iOS devices. Google added multiple user accounts to Android years ago, and iOS users have been waiting patiently for Apple to catch up.
A whole new world
Quarterly iPad unit sales have been relatively sluggish over the past year or so, following the first few years of incredible growth. The first wave of consumer adoption has taken place, and now the market is moving on to late-adopters and upgraders.
However, there's a whole other side of the market that remains relatively untapped: the enterprise. While nearly all Fortune 500 companies have adopted and deployed iPads to some degree, overall penetration remains quite low. As of last summer, Tim Cook estimated tablet penetration within the enterprise at just 20%. Driving that figure higher is of utmost importance, and could dramatically revitalize Apple's iPad business.
The IBM partnership will clearly help on this front as well, as Big Blue continues to release waves of quality mobile apps specifically tailored to different market verticals. Releasing a larger iPad with these software features would similarly bolster the tablet's appeal to large corporations.
Let's reverse this cannibalization trend
On the consumer front, the moves also help Apple better position the iPad as a true laptop replacement. In no uncertain terms, Microsoft has taken a hard stance with pitching Surface and Surface Pro as laptop replacements. Surface Pro 3's not-so-subtle marketing tag line is quite literally "the tablet that can replace your laptop."
Tim Cook acknowledged on the last conference call that the iPhone 6 Plus and Mac did cannibalize iPad sales to some degree, although Apple has never fretted over cannibalization.
At the same time, it wouldn't hurt if that trend reversed. It very well could if Apple improves the value proposition of the iPad with better multitasking and multiuser support alongside a larger model.