As well as mentioning that new iPad Pros will arrive any day now, the latest edition of Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman’s Power On newsletter features an interesting tidbit about a possible iPad accessory. 

Apple is apparently noodling away on a dock that will turn your iPad into a Nest Hub or Echo Show-style smart screen when not in use.

“The move would mark one of Apple’s most significant pushes into smart-home devices, expanding on its still small foothold in set-top boxes and speakers,” Gurman writes.

Like many things hailed as innovations when Apple unveils them, this isn’t entirely original. For years, Amazon has featured Show Mode for its Fire tablets, which essentially turns them into Echo Shows. More recently, Google has said that it’s upcoming Pixel Tablet will also dock and moonlight as a Nest Hub when not in use.

But there’s a big difference here, and it’s not just the presence of an Apple logo.

The iPad is by far the most popular tablet on the planet. Granted, that’s not a hugely competitive field, but Statista reckons that the iPad has about 51% to 56% of the tablet market sewn up. Amazon is on about 5%, losing out to the titans of “unknown”, while Google hovers around the 0.2% mark (though admittedly it hasn’t released a tablet since 2018).

That means that there’s a far bigger chance of this catching on, thanks to the sheer power of the iPad’s dominance. Doubly so if Apple makes this backwards compatible with old iPads — after all, who wouldn’t want to let their old, declining tablets live out their twilight years volunteering as a smart screen?

We don’t know how this will work yet, but one possibility is that it will connect via the Smart Connector, typically used for keyboards. If that’s the case, then anything from the 3rd generation iPad Air and 7th generation basic iPad should work. Unfortunately, no iPad minis have the connector, but every Pro iPad does.

Gurman believes that the dock could arrive as soon as next year, giving Apple a much-needed boost in the smart home sector. Hopefully that’s correct: the HomePod could do with a bit of company around the house.