For Moorhead, Apple has an opportunity to jump on the hybrid or convertible market -- defined as devices that share traits of both tablets and traditional notebooks, and typically sport detachable keyboards -- that Microsoft and its partners have tentatively entered with hardware like the former's Surface Pro and Dell's XPS 12.
"Apple can drive the heck out of the iPad, especially the [9.7-in.] model, but I believe in their future there's a hybrid device. There's lots of room, especially in the enterprise, for a $699 'convertible' iPad."
Moorhead envisioned such a move, if Apple makes it, in 2014.
Carolina Milanesi of Gartner had different thoughts, triggered by an apparent tilt in the mix of iPads sold last quarter toward the less-expensive iPad Mini. How Apple positions the next iteration of the iPad Mini, and whether it keeps the current model in its inventory, will hint at Apple's personal computer strategy, Milanesi said.
Mac unit sales were down 2% in the first quarter, the second consecutive decline. But CEO Tim Cook refused to abandon personal computers. (Data: Apple.)
"An iPad Mini in the enterprise could be seen, like other smaller tablets, as a companion to an ultrabook," she said. "It will be interesting to see how Apple deals with the MacBook Air then."
But like Moorhead, she said there's a possibility Apple will react to the PC business changes with a hybrid device. "In the enterprise, the power of having something that works, say, 80% of the time as a notebook, is powerful," Milanesi said. If Apple does take the hybrid/convertible approach with the MacBook Air, the iPad Mini, as small as it is, would nicely serve as a companion, even though the Air would be, as she said, "a tablet when you wanted it to be."
Others saw another Mac strategy for Apple.
"It's not that PCs are dying, that's silly," said Gottheil. "The PC is maturing, though, and the transition from adolescence to adulthood will be difficult. But the Mac is an anchor for them. It's important to Apple, and it's clearly profitable."
Mac sales in the first quarter generated $5.45 billion in revenue, up 7% over the prior year. Gottheil credited the revenue increase to a shift to more expensive models, most likely the 13-in. MacBook Pro with its Retina-quality display: The ASP, or "average selling price," of the Mac climbed to $1,378 from $1,359 in the previous quarter, and was $74 higher than a year earlier.
Riffing on the idea that consumers, but also businesses, are keeping their personal computers for longer periods -- spending the money for replacement machines on tablets instead -- Gottheil argued that Apple is better positioned to benefit from the trend than most Windows OEMs.