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The latest rumblings surrounding the anticipated release of a larger, education-focused iPad next year suggest the device may touch down with Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 in its crosshairs, sporting a super-slim form factor, enhanced audio, and a slightly more compact 12.2-inch display.
That's according the latest report out of the Japanese-language macotakara, which has at times unearthed details about Apple's future product designs that turn out to be fairly accurate. In this particular case, the publication cites its own sources as saying that iPad maker is specifically designing the device to play into the same markets as Microsoft's Surface Pro 3, but adds that the company may choose to employ a slightly more compact 12.2-inch display than the 12.9-inch option that is widely rumored and also used by the Surface Pro 3.
The overall design of the iPad Pro itself is said to largely resemble a jumbo iPad 2 with two additional speakers (and an additional microphone) located at the top of the device, which "might" make the iPad Pro "capable of supporting stereo audio." It reportedly won't be as thin as the 6.1mm iPad Air 2, but will still be as slim as an iPhone, measuring somewhere between the iPhone 6's 6.9mm and the iPhone 6 Pro's 7.1mm at its thickest point.
While earlier reports suggested that Apple may have been targeting the current quarter as an entry point for the new educational tablet, more recent reports have indicated that full-scale manufacturing of the device will more likely begin in the first quarter of 2015.
Apple faces a number of challenges in delivering on a so-called iPad Pro, according to Ming-Chi Kuo — a well-connected analyst who has similarly claimed knowledge of the product under development. In addition to executing on the hardware end, he says Apple is also tasked with crafting and secretly evaluating a completely new flavor of iOS designed to take advantage of the device's much larger display real estate.
In a report on the iPad Pro back in February, Kuo accurately predicted that the iPad mini family of products would show signs of neglect this year as the company had prioritized its iPad teams on completing an all new iPad Air 2 for late 2014 and what he called a "12.9-inch iPad Pro" for 2015.