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Apple's secret 12.9-inch MONSTER needs a good fondle, say biz sources

Seeks to outflank Samsung with whopper 'iPad Maxi'

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Apple may be planning to debut a new, larger iPad early next year, if murmurings from the fruity firm's Asian supply-chain partners are to be believed.

According to a report in the Korea Times, Apple has placed an order for 12.9-inch high-resolution panels with a South Korean display manufacturer, with the goal of releasing a new, larger iPad in 2014.

The panels will have "improved picture quality," the paper's sources claimed, suggesting that the big slab could join the iPad Air and iPad Mini in carrying Apple's Retina Display label.

As it stands, Cupertino's largest fondleslabs are the iPad 2 and iPad Air, each with a 9.7-inch display. Apple offers two 7.9-inch iPad Mini models, as well, but it has yet to dabble in the market for larger tablets the way some of its competitors have.

Apple's top rival is, of course, Samsung, and the Korean firm is already giving the iPad line a run for its money. It clawed its way to an 18.5 per cent share of the fondleslab market in the last quarter, even as Apple's own share slipped to 27.4 per cent.

Samsung execs say the company is dead set on conquering tablets, having already come to dominate global smartphone sales, and it is reportedly readying new Galaxy Tab models with screens as large as 13 inches for next year.

That doesn't mean Apple will necessarily follow suit. Cupertino seldom plays the "me-too" game, preferring to position its gadgets as premium items for lifestyle-conscious consumers.

But this isn't the first time we've heard rumblings that a 12.9-inch iPad is in the works. Earlier this month, Chinese sources claimed that Apple's frequent manufacturing partner Foxconn was helping it iron the bugs out of the big slab, for which they coined the rather, er, hygienic-sounding moniker "iPad Maxi."

Yet a second Chinese report dismissed that claim, saying signs pointed to an 11.4-inch iPad on the horizon, rather than a monster-sized 12.9-inch one.

Or not. Reading the tea leaves of the Asian electronics supply chain is a tricky business, and no less than the Wall Street Journal has given the nod to rumors of a new iPad model with a display "measuring slightly less than 13 inches." That was in June, however, and at the time, the WSJ observed that Apple was merely testing larger tablet prototypes, and that it wasn't clear whether any such designs would actually make it to market.

Who you choose to believe, dear reader, is entirely up to you. But given Apple CEO Tim Cook's insistence that we can expect "some exciting new products" from Cupertino in 2014, add these latest whisperings to the mounting evidence that a great big iPad may soon arrive – although there's still that nagging issue of what to call it. ®

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