Apple is expected to unveil a lower-cost iPad with possible Apple Pencil support, as well as educational software, at its “field trip” event next Tuesday, March 27.
The low-cost 9.7-inch iPad has been in the rumor mill for quite some time. But a recent Bloomberg report, which cites people familiar with the matter, basically confirms its launch next week. The sources indicate the iPad should “appeal” to the education sector.
Though a price point hasn’t been confirmed, supply chain reports from late last year suggest that the entry-level Apple tablet could retail for as low as $259.
Due to its low price point, well-connected KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo expects shipments of the 9.7-inch iPad to account for more than 70 percent of all Apple tablet sales this year. In a research note distributed Friday, Kuo also noted that iPad Pro models will likely launch “around” 2018’s third quarter.
In addition, Kuo suggested in Friday’s investors note that the ultra-affordable iPad could introduce Apple Pencil support. If that turns out to be the case, Kuo said it could spur Apple Pencil shipments to rise to 9 to 10 million units this year.
That move would likely help to differentiate the iPad from similar low-cost Android tablets. And it could help the device compete with Google’s Chromebooks, which are popular in classrooms due to their portability and price.
Kuo’s research note is the first indication we’ve seen that Apple might add Pencil support to its lower-cost iPad product. Previously, there was only speculation about that fact due to the seemingly Apple Pencil-inspired of the March 27 event’s press invites.
The KGI Securities analyst also suggested that Cupertino could add Apple Pencil to future iPhones — with the likelihood of that move correlating with increase iPhone screen sizes. Despite that, Kuo does not expect the 2018 iPhones to add Apple Pencil support.
Bloomberg’s sources also suggest that Apple will unveil education-focused software at next week’s event.
It’s not currently clear what software will be seen at the event, but it’s likely that the company will officially announce ClassKit, a developer toolset aimed at creating education-based apps. The new SDK has been discovered in beta versions of iOS 11.3, but Apple hasn’t publicly acknowledged its existence.
Apple is also rumored to be working on a refresh of the iBooks storefront, as well as a revamp iBooks Author app that lets users create textbooks and other digital materials. It’s not clear whether these new platforms will be ready in time for next week, however.
Similarly, Bloomberg’s sources corroborate the fact that a “more affordable” MacBook or MacBook Air device is on the docket for 2018. However, those sources say that it “probably” won’t be ready in time for the education event.