Noted analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has released a new research report underlining his expectations for the future of Apple's iPad line-up, with slightly revised predictions for a new "high-end" middle-size tablet to be released later this year.
According to Kuo, Apple is planning to introduce three iPads in 2017: a 12.9-inch iPad Pro2 and a "low-cost" 9.7-inch iPad, along with a new bezel-free, mid-size model in the range of between 10 and 10.5 inches.
We note the 12.9" model will be the second generation of the existing 12.9" iPad Pro, the 10-10.5" model will be the high-end model equipped with a narrow bezel design, and the 9.7" model will be the low-priced option. The former two models will have an A10X chip manufactured by TSMC (2330 TT, NT$183.5, N), while the latter comes with an A9 chip made by Samsung LSI. Although we estimate iPad shipments in 2017 will drop again YoY to 35-37mn units, we except the decline to narrow to 10% from 2016's roughly 20%, given that the 10-10.5" model may see more demand from commercial/enterprises and tender markets, while the low-priced 9.7" model may have a greater shipment contribution and likely account for 50-60% of total shipments of new iPads.
Last August, Kuo's expectation for Apple's mid-size model was a more definite 10.5 inches. His latest revised prediction of 10-10.5 inches suggests Apple is still testing multiple tablets and has yet to settle on a final size. Interestingly, Japanese site Mac Otakara released two separate reports last year stating that the tablet will be 10.1 inches and 10.9 inches, so while the former size falls into the lower end of Kuo's revised range, the exact dimensions remain unclear.
Market-wise, Kuo believes "the worst has passed" for Apple's iPad as he predicts a narrower year-on-year shipment decline in 2017. The analyst puts this down to an improved product mix, decreasing exposure to the iPad mini, and an improved cost structure due to an increasing number of suppliers of touch-module lamination and display panels, with Samsung being "the biggest winner" in joining previous monopoly-holder Silicon Works to supply the latter.
Mac Otakara and Barclays Research have both predicted an early 2017 launch for the new iPads, perhaps in March or April. However, if a radical bezel-free redesign is planned, it is unlikely that Apple will upstage the 2017 iPhone 8 that's expected in September with an edge-to-edge iPad launching earlier in the year.