Ridiculous, but quite possible. Mark Gurman, reporting for Bloomberg in his Power On newsletter:

Earlier this month, I broke the news that Apple is accelerating its computer processor upgrades and plans to release the M4 chip later this year alongside new iMacs, MacBook Pros, and Mac minis. The big change with the M4: A new neural engine will pave the way for fresh AI capabilities. Now here’s another development. This year’s Macs may not be the only AI-driven devices with M4 chips.

I’m hearing there is a strong possibility that the chip in the new iPad Pro will be the M4, not the M3. Better yet, I believe Apple will position the tablet as its first truly AI-powered device — and that it will tout each new product from then on as an AI device. This, of course, is all in response to the AI craze that has swept the tech industry over the last couple years.

By introducing the new iPad Pro ahead of its Worldwide Developers Conference in June, Apple could lay out its AI chip strategy without distraction. Then, at WWDC, it could focus on how the M4 chip and new iPad Pros will take advantage of the AI software and services coming as part of iPadOS 18 later this year. I fully expect Apple to position the A18 chip in the iPhone 16 line as built around AI as well.

To be fair, though, these new products aren’t engineered and developed entirely around AI. This is partly about marketing. Hardware with even more impressive capabilities is further out. As I’ve reported, Apple is working on a table-top iPad connected to a robotic arm, as well as a home robot.

For context, the M3 line of processors debuted in late October last year, so it has only been roughly six months since the latest generation of Apple’s high-end processors came into the market. Every single bone in my body disagrees viscerally with every aspect of this rumor — it does not make sense from any logical perspective whatsoever because there is no way Apple would sell an iPad Pro that is faster and more capable than the MacBook Air and base-model MacBook Pro. It would be genuinely embarrassing for it to sell a device that runs iPadOS — a moderately enhanced version of iOS — with a more powerful chip than the $1,600 MacBook Pro.

That bit of illogical thinking is, however, small compared to the timeframes we’re working with here: Apple has never produced two full generations of Apple silicon only six months apart. With Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company’s factories booked trying to meet M3 3-nanometer process node demand, I have a tough time believing TSMC can fabricate more 3-nm chips to meet the demand for iPads Pro and Mac laptops. Also, the M3 processor is based on the architecture of the A17 Pro, which first debuted in September in iPhones 15 Pro, so the M4 would have to be based on the eventual A18 Pro (or A18, whatever it may be called), which has not even been announced yet — it will be announced this September. Historically, Apple has always based the Mac’s Apple silicon chip on that year’s iPhone chip.

And about the “artificial intelligence” focus: I genuinely can’t see Apple marketing the new iPads Pro — which are slated to debut at Apple’s virtual May 7 event — as “AI-focused” without first announcing AI features as part of iPadOS in June, at the Worldwide Developers Conference. What would potential buyers do with the AI-focused Neural Engine in iPadOS? This entire rumor is bending my mind because it seems so impossible and brazen. The M4, historically speaking, has no business being in these new iPads Pro — period — because no publicly available software can take advantage of the new Neural Engine on iPadOS, the M4 would stretch TSMC’s fabrication facilities to their max, and the M4’s debut in May would not line up with Apple’s product timelines. It’s completely nonsensical.

I trust Gurman — I truly do. There is not a time in recent memory when he has been wrong. But Gurman has been seesawing non-stop on this Apple event, which he earlier said wouldn’t even be an event in the first place. He also said that the iPads would be announced in March or April, but the event is taking place in May. Though he corrected some of these rumors later on, I heavily doubt his reporting here. If Apple truly does announce the M4 chip in the new iPads Pro in May, I won’t be shocked, because Gurman said it — but for now, I’m choosing to take this rumor with a grain of salt.

Also, one final note from Gurman’s newsletter this week, serving as some follow-up to my writing on Saturday about Apple Vision Pro:

Vision Pro demand has dropped considerably at many Apple stores. One retail employee says they haven’t seen one Vision Pro purchase in weeks and that the number of returns equaled the device’s sales in the first month that it was available.