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Is Apple's 13-in. iPad a desktop for kids?

Rumors of a large iPad are many and constant, but they make sense only if the tablet is a desktop for schools.

December 28, 2013 07:00 AM ET

Computerworld - Rumors about Apple building a very large iPad have been unavoidable for seven months. But does a giant iPad make sense?

Other companies have tried to sell large-format touch tablets, but these have been universally rejected by most consumers.

So are the rumors really true? And, if so, what is Apple planning?

The giant iPad rumors

A Korean publication called ET News started a rumor on May 28 that Apple was testing an iPad with a 12.9-in. screen, measured diagonally. (Apple's current biggest iPad models have 9.7-in. screens.) That screen size is roughly the same size as some laptops, including Apple's 13-inch iPad Air. (The blog posted some accurate comparisons showing just how big a 12.9-in. iPad would be.)

That report was based on information from parts suppliers, according to the article. English-language publications picked up on the rumor, emphasizing the larger size but de-emphasizing the stated purpose for the tablet: the U.S. education market.

Still, the report was dismissed as a flaky rumor until July 22, when The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple had been testing for months significantly larger screen sizes for both the iPad and the iPhone.

Although the report was considered reliable, the news in fact was that Apple was testing, not planning, larger-screen iPads.

Then, The Korea Timesreported Nov. 19 that "an official at a local Apple supplier in Korea" told the newspaper that the 12.9-in. Retina screen for the iPad was already in production in preparation for a launch "sometime next year." The source intriguingly said that Apple's larger iPad will be the first to boost picture quality higher than current Retina displays and that it will be "almost ultra high-definition (UHD)," also known as 4K.

That claim, by the way, is consistent with a report by the DisplaySearch blog, which wrote in October that, "based on supply chain research, we believe Apple is planning to revamp nearly all of the displays in its products over the next year."

Earlier this week, DigiTimes, a Taiwanese trade newspaper for the Taiwanese and Chinese electronics industries, reported that October 2014 is the target launch timeframe for a 12.9-in. iPad "targeting North America's educational market." (Note that DigiTimes rumors and predictions are often wrong.)

Still, an October release makes sense for an education market product, as many U.S. school budgets are typically finalized in January or February.

What doesn't make sense is this: Why would Apple target its largest tablet at people with the tiniest hands -- schoolchildren?

Why little kids need big iPads

The major operating system companies -- Google, Microsoft and Apple -- know that we're stuck in a transition period between the PC and post-PC worlds.

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