Turns out that Apple had a big secret they were holding onto for their upcoming September media event. Keyword here: had.

According to Bloomberg, Apple is preparing to unveil a 12.9-inch iPad, which will be the largest Apple tablet yet (the iPad Air clocks in at 9.7-inches). Suppliers are reportedly getting ready to manufacture the device for release in the first quarter of next year. Rumors have circulated that Apple was experimenting with bigger tablets since last year, but this is the most credible report so far. This comes just two weeks before Apple's scheduled media event on September 9 where they're expected to announce two versions of the iPhone 6: a 4.7 and 5.5-inch model. It's surprising that Apple—if the report turns out to be true—was able to keep the larger iPad a secret for so long. There has been a steady stream of leaked iPhone 6 photos, diagrams, and dummy models, but nothing of the sort with the larger iPad. This would have been a big surprise during an event that's expected to focus on the new iPhones, and surprises are few and far between when it comes to product unveilings today. 

So, why a bigger iPad?

This is the same thinking that went into the decision to introduce large screen iPhones—consumers' tastes are changing, and as we digest more videos and photos, we want big pretty screens to look at them on.

Well Microsoft has already infiltrated that market with their 12-inch Surface Pro 3, and Samsung with the 12.2-inch Galaxy Tab Pro. The longer Apple stays out of the large tablet market, the longer they're giving Microsoft and Samsung an edge. This is the same thinking that went into the decision to introduce large screen iPhones—consumers' tastes are changing, and as we digest more videos and photos, we want big pretty screens to look at them on. Carrying around a 12-inch tablet won't be much different from carrying around a 13-inch laptop. A 12.9-inch screen might not prove that useful if you're just going to read comic books on it, but it might be of use if you work in the creative industry where designs and photos are your building blocks. A big portable screen will show more details than, say, an iPad Mini.

Then, there's the problem of slumping iPad sales. The iPad had been selling well after its launch in 2010, but in Q2 of this year, sales fell dramatically: when the iPad was expected to sell 19.7 million units, it came up short by nearly 3.5 million. In Q3, the iPad sold 13.3 million units, a drop in 1.3 million from the 14.6 million that were sold the year before. Introducing a radically larger iPad may help spur sells, but, almost as importantly, may take away sells from Apple's competitors. Also, there's something to be said about the effect of bigger iPhones: the 5.5-inch version will be just about two inches shorter than the 7.9-inch iPad Mini. By increasing the size of the iPad, Apple will be making up for the size difference between their phones and tablets, when the line between them is becoming increasingly blurred.