In 2001: A Space Odyssey, as Frank Poole and David Bowman catch up with news from home on their outward journey to Jupiter, we see them use devices that are remarkably similar to the iPad. As others have already noted, the similarity to the iPad, both in Clarke's description and Kubrick's representation, is quite remarkable. However, we think it might have more in common with the long rumoured iPad Pro.
Not everyone agrees that Apple are planning to launch an iPad Pro, some can't see the point given that it would compete more directly with the MacBook range, while others object to the idea of a larger tablet device claiming that it would simply be too big to be usable. We have long held the opinion that iOS will eventually replace Mac OS X and that the iPad will shortly become the most important computing platform for Apple. During the last quarter Apple made more money from the iPad than it did from all its Mac computers (desktops and laptops) combined.
The iPad is already more important to Apple than the Mac
With that it mind Apple might already be hard at work on the iPad Pro, a tablet computer with all the power and flexibility of a MacBook Pro or Air, but running iOS. The Mac platform has had its day in the sunshine, Lion is a worthy upgrade to OS X, but all the iOS bolt-ons just don't feel right on OS X, unsurprisingly they feel bolted on. The Mac belongs to a different age and that age is coming to an end.
Many of the features that an iPad Pro would need to compete with a MacBook in terms of power and flexibility can be added through upgrades to iOS. For example, iOS 5 brings wireless syncing and slick application switching gestures that make the iPad user experience more complete, but we are confident that iOS 6 will bring some major changes to iOS that will further age Mac OS X.
On the hardware front there are two areas where the iPad needs reinforcing in order to be crowned an iPad Pro.
The A5 powered iPad 2 still surprises us with its speed of operation, but there is one area in particular where its dual 1GHz processor and 512MB of RAM struggle. Image processing, both video and still, is pretty slow. It's fine when the video file is optimised specifically for the iPad hardware, as is the case with iMovie, but when it's not optimised, editing is either simply not allowed or it runs incredibly slowly and only via third party apps. Open up Apple's Pages app and try to compose a multilayered document with transparency, shadows and rotated images; it's doable, but only just. More power is needed. This is just one area that could do from a 4 fold boost in power.
Screen size and quality
Take another look at the 2001 clip above, we believe the screen size featured on the Newspad is roughly comparable to a sheet of A4 sized paper (210mm x 297mm). We think giving the iPad Pro a screen that is exactly the same size as the worlds most common single sheet of paper would be an extremely smart move. Another smart move would be to give it a Retina class display. We have written about this at length and believe that most analysts are completely underestimating the impact that a 300 PPI display would have, not only on the computer industry but also on the entire publishing industry.
If the iPad is to take its place in history as the first proper successor to printed paper, then it really ought to at least match, or even surpass, its key features. An A4 sized Retina class display would do just that.
We would love to hear your thoughts on a possible iPad Pro and what such a device might include. Please be sure to leave a comment below.