As expected, Apple unveilled a smaller iPad Pro overnight. And while we're not buying into the company's hype that this is "the ultimate PC replacement," the souped-up 9.7 inch iPad Pro will certainly see many conventional earlier-model iPads put out to pasture.
Apple has in effect dropped the one thing which most people didn't love about the first-gen iPad Pro: its gargantuan 12.9 inch screen size, which made the tablet feel more like a heavy digital clipboard in your hands
Everything else remains – the (optional) Apple Pencil and (also optional) Smart Keyboard, powerful A9X engine and four-speaker audio – but it's all been crammed into the same 9.7 inch screen footprint as the original and long-lived iPad family, which on April 3 will mark its sixth year anniversary.
For all that, the new iPad Pro is no heavier that last year's iPad Air 2.
It is, of course, a tad more expensive.
The starting price is $899 for 32GB WiFi and $1,099 for the 4G-capable 32GB model, with 128GB and 256GB models also listed.
(Note that there's no 64GB version, which gives Apple the marketing benefit of a low entry-point price, as every 9.7 inch iPad Pro bar the 32GB WiFi model comes with a four-digit sticker.)
The Apple Pencil stylus will cost an extra $165 with the keyboard at $229, so by the time you've fitted out even the base model with pen and keys you're looking at
Apple's 9.7 inch iPad Pro goes on sale on March 31st.
Previous | Apple is expected to skip a third-gen upgrade to the iPad Air and release instead a smaller version of its iPad Pro tablet next month.
The downsized iPad Pro would come in at the same 9.7 inch screens size as the conventional iPad family, which was launched almost six years ago and in 2014 was slimmed down to the iPad Air line.
Reports by well-sourced Apple-watching websites suggest that the smaller iPad Pro will be positioned as as a compelling upgrade for iPad Air owners and those still making do with an earlier iPad 'classic'.
Like its 12.9 inch sibling, the 9.7 inch iPad Pro will be accompanied by an optional digital stylus and – arguably more appealing to business travellers – a keyboard cover, which will see Apple line up its own keyboard accessory against those of third-party companies such as Logitech and Belkin.
Although the Apple Pencil stylus is mainly used for drawing and image editing, the forthcoming iOS 9.3 update is expected to extend that role to navigation such as scrolling, accessing menus and general editing functions in non-drawing apps.
Also on the cards, says the pundits: the larger iPad Pro's punchy A9X processor and four speakers, one for each corner of the tablet.
As part of the March 15 event Apple is also expected to axe the iPad Mini 2 and original iPad Air, leaving just one tablet in each family on the shelf, and launch a compact mid-range 'iPhone 5se' using the same 4 inch form factor as the iPhone 5.
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