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Analyst touts iPad 'transformer' after CEO confab

Dual dock ports, clip-on keyboard for laptop-like use?

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Will the Apple iPad 3 be an 'homage' to the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime, complete with clever clip-on keyboard accessory? One financial analysts comments, posted after a meeting with Apple CEO Tim Cook, suggests it might be.

Enter Citigroup researcher Richard Gardner, who late last week said he'd been chewing the fat with Cook. The analyst asked the CEO whether the MacBook Air would lose its Intel processor and Mac OS X and gain an ARM chip running iOS instead.

Such a gadget had been the subject of rumours at several points during 2011. Someone even claimed to have seen the device in the flesh.

Gardner doesn't reveal Cook's exact words but, he says, he "walked away from this meeting with the impression that Apple feels iPad satisfies - or will soon satisfy - the needs of those who might have been interested in such a product".

The key words are "will soon satisfy". It implies Cook must have indicated that Apple is aware that some iPad owners want a better keyboard to use with their tablet, and that it will be addressing them shortly.

A keyboard is, after all, is the only thing that separates Gardner's mooted ARM-based, iOS-running Air laptop from the already ARM-based, iOS-running iPad. It's tempting then to see Cook's hint - or, rather, Gardner's reading of them - as a sign that the iPad 3 might get a clip-on keyboard.

The original iPad was provided with an optional-extra docking cradle with an integrated keyboard. Apple killed off the peripheral when the iPad 2 launched, preferring to steer punters toward its Bluetooth wireless deck.

The original keyboard dock was bulky. But, as Asus has shown, it is possible to craft a decent keyboard for a tablet to give it a laptop-like usage mode.

Some time ago, an Apple patent was revealed that showed an iPad with two dock ports: one for when the tablet is in portrait orientation, the other to permit landscape docking. Perhaps the iPad 3 will finally see Apple adopt this configuration. ®

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