The company will reportedly ditch the iPad Air range in favor of a smaller screened iPad Pro as the company seeks to provide more enterprise competition to Microsoft and the Surface line.

Apple is expected to launch a new iPad next month, alongside a watered down iPhone and an update to the Apple Watch wearable.

However, while may expected the company to unveil an iPad Air 3, 9to5Mac reports that Cupertino will use the March 15 event to expand its iPad Pro line instead.

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This will mean the launch of a 9.7-inch version of the iPad Pro, a slate Apple is hoping will further take the fight to Microsoft and the Surface 3/Surface Pro 4.

While the iPad range is the best-selling tablet line on the market, most power-users and business oriented consumers see the Surface Pro 4 as a more potent enterprise tool.

Apple addressed the balance somewhat with the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (below), complete with Apple Pencil stylus late last year. However, the compact nature of the Surface Pro 4 makes it a go to choice to enterprise users, so Apple is looking to boost its productivity oriented range with a smaller version.

Of course, even the Surface 3 (10.9-inch) will be bigger than a 9.7-inch iPad Pro, so Cupertino is really putting its crosshairs on Microsoft and targeting businesses who may want a more portable slate. Of course, any iPad will be lacking the full PC functionality of the Windows 10 platform, so Microsoft would do well to emphasize that point if Apple encroaches further onto its turf.

For those impressed with the specs of the iPad Pro, there is plenty to be excited about regarding the smaller variant, because it will ship with exactly the same goods. That means such hardware as Apple’s admittedly excellent A9X processor, a Full HD screen, the Apple Pencil, Smart Keyboard, and company’s free software suite (Pages, Keynote, Numbers, GarageBand, iTunes, iMovie, etc.).

Cupertino’s apps certainly make the iPad a more functional beast overall, but compared to the Microsoft Surface and Windows 10, any iPad still feels like a pale PC imitator. That said, Apple will not be targeting the PC market, and with the biggest company in the game muscling on the Surface’s territory, it will be interesting to see how Microsoft responds.

SOURCE: Softpedia via 9to5Mac

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