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Toshiba's featherlight tablet sets the stage for the iPad Pro

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In just a few days, Apple is expected to unveil its iPad Pro. It will mark more than five years since the original unveiling of the iPad, and comes at a crucial time for the future of Apple’s tablet. iPad sales have stagnated, so many are looking to the rumored iPad Pro to see if Apple can generate more growth for its line of tablets and finally position them as business-friendly.

Just like five years ago, PC makers are revealing their latest creations ahead of an Apple event. This time it’s at IFA in Berlin, and not CES in Las Vegas, but the playbook feels the same. Microsoft, Intel, and the family of PC makers have attempted many 2-in-1 concepts in recent years, fueled primarily by Windows 8. As Windows 10 starts to appear on new machines, more and more convertible tablets and laptops are beginning to launch. We’ve seen a few this week already, and Microsoft is holding an event today to show off the hardware coming for Windows 10 later this year.

Toshiba has been experimenting with different 2-in-1 PC concepts over the years, and today it’s unveiling its latest tablet prototype. I had a chance to get a closer look at Toshiba’s creation, and when I first picked it up, I thought it was a dummy without a battery. It’s so light that it reminds me of my reaction to Lenovo’s incredibly lightweight laptops earlier this year. Toshiba has opted for a 12-inch display on this prototype at 1920 x 1280. While the company isn’t sharing exact specifications, the concept uses an Intel Atom processor inside. The processor and the build materials (it appears to be plastic) are the key components behind such a light tablet.

Toshiba concept tablet hands-on photos

Weight aside, Toshiba is using magnets to attach a keyboard to the tablet when you’re transporting it in a bag. It looks and feels just like a regular laptop when the keyboard and tablet are attached together and closed. When you're using the keyboard it simply looks like one of the popular Logitech iPad keyboards that you dock a tablet into. There’s even a stylus that sticks to the side of the tablet thanks to a weird clip, but Toshiba says it’s not a final design and the company is experimenting with other ways to attach the stylus. Keeping a stylus secured to a tablet has been a difficult problem for PC makers to solve, and rumors suggest Apple’s upcoming iPad Pro will include a Force Touch-based stylus, so Apple will also be forced to solve this issue.

At the rumored size of the iPad Pro and complete with a stylus, it really feels like Toshiba’s concept tablet is setting the stage for Apple’s new tablet. Back at CES 2010, just days before the iPad unveil, PC manufacturers like HP attempted to convince everyone they had the tablet the world would want. Apple will need to do that itself next week. A combination of keyboard, mouse, stylus, and a touch tablet has always felt like the future, and just a bigger iPad with a pen won’t be enough for Apple to really nail the business market. Toshiba’s concept isn’t perfect, but it’s starting to get to the point where tablets feel like you’re holding a paper notepad. If Apple wants everyone to use the iPad Pro as a paper replacement, then weight is going to be the key ingredient.

Toshiba concept tablet hands-on photos