iPad 5 rumor rollup for the week ending July 23

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A story in The Wall Street Journal has ignited speculation that Apple will soon have a 12.9-inch iPad.

"People at Apple's suppliers said [Apple] asked for prototype smartphone screens larger than its current iPhone in recent months, and has asked for screen designs for a new tablet measuring slightly less than 13 inches," according to the Journal story. The next sentence added an important caveat, which many blogs and tech sites ignored: "Whether the designs will make their way to market is unclear, but they could lead to Apple phones and tablets that are larger than the current 4-inch iPhone 5 and 9.7-inch iPad."

The request "in recent months" for different sizes of screens to test indicates that finished products equipped with them are in all likelihood years, not months, away.

According to the Journal's Conventional Wisdom Narrative, "The challenge Apple faces is how to continue expanding its customer base with innovative new products and refinements of current ones. Apple has successfully done both, but analysts note the company hasn't launched a new product line since the original iPad in 2010."

Innovation and refinement amount to making devices with different screen sizes. "The tests with suppliers suggest that Apple is exploring ways to capture customer interest in smartphones and tablets from competitors that come in various sizes. Its biggest rival in the tablet and smartphone markets, South Korea's Samsung, offers products with different features and sizes in what its executives say is an effort to appeal to as many customers as possible."

Samsung's approach, which amounts to "Let's throw a plate of spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks," is often considered successful based on its share of phones or tablets sold, even though none of its numerous individual models, especially in tablets, have proven as durably popular as the iPhone or iPad.

Why is it that Apple's screen size tests are seen as a reaction to the market, rather than as a continuing product development discipline intended to anticipate technology developments, improve current offerings, and develop new product categories?

One example of this myopic bias is a stock analyst, BGC Financial's Colin Gillis. His recent investor note is quoted in the Journal story: "Apple has been slow to react to consumer desire for larger smartphone screens, [and] entry level price points on new phones. Waiting and waiting, for the new products to launch, has become painful."

The Rollup's advice to Mr. Gillis is to take two aspirin, chill out, and call us in the morning. Given Apple's record Q3 iPhone sales and the continuing popularity of iPad, it seems plenty of consumers are not in pain at all.

AppleInsider's Sam Oliver accepts the same Conventional Wisdom but, almost as an after-thought, raises the possibility that the 13-inch test screen may be for an entirely different category of product.

"A 13-inch iPad would put it in a similar class with the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, both of which are available with 13.3-inch screens," he writes. Which raises the possibility that it wouldn't be an iPad at all. Oliver links to a possibility mentioned by DaringFireball's John Gruber in May 2013 that Apple may eventually introduce an iOS notebook product. Gruber sees this as part of a years-long evolution in the "Post-PC" era in which increasingly capable tablets will indeed become the primary computing platform instead of Macs and PCs.

As even the Journal acknowledges, "Apple routinely tests different designs for its products as it refines them during development."

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnwwEmail: john_cox@nww.com

Read more about anti-malware in Network World's Anti-malware section.

This story, "iPad 5 rumor rollup for the week ending July 23" was originally published by Network World.

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