Apple may be ready to set off another seismic event for the computing sector with the release of a foldable iPad from as soon as next year. Any such move could trigger a copycat sequence of events familiar to anybody who observed the rise of the iPod, iPhone and the iPad itself… or even the Apple Macintosh for those with long enough memories.
Ming-Chi Kuo tweeted early this morning that he is “positive” about the release of a foldable iPad in 2024. The Taiwan-based analyst at TF International Securities added that he expects the release to feature a carbon fibre kickstand, a material that will make it “lighter and more durable” than alternatives. The kickstand will be supplied by China’s Anjie Technology, the analyst said, describing the company as a “beneficiary”; that’s very apt given the long history of Apple helping sourcing partners to soar.
Foldable phones have had a mixed reception so far but more recent models from the likes of Samsung most notably, but also Motorola, LG and Huawei, have shown that higher levels of design complexity needn’t mean unreliable products. Some are aimed at the ‘phablet’ phone/tablet hybrid market but it’s surely unlikely that Apple would knowingly compromise sales of its all-powerful iPhone franchise except with the greatest reluctance.
As with so many stories that rely on analyst projections and sourcing inside knowledge, not everybody is convinced that this Apple report will come to (pun intended) fruition in 2024, or even early that year when Ming-Chi Kuo foresees manufacturing beginning. But Kuo’s accompanying forecast that there may be no significant new iPad release for the remainder of 2023 suggests that the Cupertino giant just might be revving up for another attempt at what Steve Jobs famously called the “insanely great”. And although Apple wouldn’t be the first with a foldable tablet (Lenovo with its ThinkPad X1 Fold claims that crown) there’s every chance that it could do for foldables what it did for portable digital music players, touchscreen phones and tablets by creating a breakout approach that clones will flock to.
(Apple's iPad revenue hit $7.2 billion in Q4 of 2022, down 13% on FX headwinds, but the iPad installed base reached a new all-time high, thanks to what Apple CFO Luca Maestri described as "incredible customer loyalty and a high number of new customers.")
Another fairly safe bet: a foldable iPad will appeal to staff selecting their machines on a BYOD basis, especially as there may be plenty of scope in the format for side-by-side personal/work use cases. So IT will need to prep support functions or ready themselves for the sorts of Shadow IT that have hurt them in the past, as The Stack has reported.
Of course, there are never any guarantees here: hands up who remembers the Apple Newton MessagePad?