WWDC: Is Apple Preparing to Give iPad a Massive Upgrade?

The lack of true multi-tasking has long been a criticism of the iPad, but this may (or may not) change, and we may (or may not) learn more about this at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). The big event kicks off on June 6.

Let’s mix, let’s mix it up

The evidence for the change is sparse – it consists of additional WebKit code for a multitasking mode that suggests freely customizable windows. What this could mean in practice is that you can open multiple windows on iPad and resize them to your liking, closer to the Mac experience.

Developer Steve Troughton-Smith speculates the code could potentially support new devices running iPad OS and provide a user experience similar to a Mac desktop.

Apple continues to bring both iPad and Mac user experiences closer together, while continuing to respect the differences between the two. That vision extends to complementary uses, as evidenced by Universal Control, announced in 2021. The latter lets you use a Mac and an iPad along with a single mouse and keyboard to control both, and enhanced inter-platform collaboration — you can drag and drop items between devices for example. The sum of both devices used together becomes greater than the parts, while both devices retain their uniqueness.

Now with bigger engines

With Apple Silicon, both devices now have much larger motors. With this in mind, it’s quite interesting that despite Apple’s use of Mac-class M1 Apple Silicon chips in most of the iPad lineup, little is known about how it plans to exploit that processing power in iPad OS 16. . Apple won’t have boosted the range for no good reason, but speculation has been conspicuously absent in recent weeks.

What we’ve heard is improved notifications and faint sounds about “new ways to interact with apps” and “new Apple apps.” What little we think we also know suggests improvements in notifications, health apps, and possibly a platform for future development of the company’s anticipated AR glasses.

Given the speculated codename for Apple’s next macOS iteration is “Mammoth,” it makes sense to anticipate big news around the company’s platforms. What changes we see for the Mac will replicate on the iPad, and vice versa. It makes a lot more sense that Apple has huge plans for its productivity devices than it doesn’t.

The direction of travel

Looking back a year, Universal Control was probably the most anticipated feature announced at WWDC last year. Apple’s iPad wishes are also articulated with Slide Over, Split View, the multi-window shelf, and so on. Even the introduction of the ability to build apps in Swift Playgrounds shows a direction towards more functionality to fully exploit the capabilities of these machines.

Apple has significantly refined the multitasking experience in iPadOS in recent years, improving features such as Slide Over, Split View, and the dock. For example, iPadOS 15 added a new multitasking menu at the top of apps, as well as a center pane, a new multi-window shelf, and a more intuitive Split View experience. The latest speculation about resizable windows is by far the biggest claim yet for things to come, pointing to another round of multitasking improvements in iPad.

What can this mean for business?

So, what does this mean for you and your business?

What it means is clear. Apple continues its mission to provide user experiences that feel equally familiar on both iPad and Mac. That doesn’t mean identical experiences – each platform has its own unique features – but includes everything from identical keyboard shortcuts to pointer and keyboard support. This effort also means iPads are becoming capable computer replacements for a growing number of tasks.

One of the best barometers for this growing functionality is in Photoshop for iPad. That application appears to be in accelerated development, and just a few weeks ago, Adobe added two incredibly powerful tools to the iPad app: intentionally filling content and removing background.

As iPad functionality continues to improve, the product family is becoming an increasingly viable alternative platform. That’s important because the innate mobility of the iPad also gives Apple the opportunity to develop completely new solutions based on the inherent technology it now possesses. Think of kiosks, wearables, e-paper devices, smart entertainment systems and so on.

In the shorter term, any improvements Apple makes to iPad OS will have an immediate impact on mobile professionals who now use the tablet instead of a notebook when on the go. Improvements in multitasking simply make the devices more capable, while improvements in functionality and the class of apps they support will do the same.

[Also read: We already know how Apple will prosper in uncertainty]

Pitching for the upgrade business

It’s also important to note — especially as millions of Windows PCs reach EOL — iPads already offer viable, robust, and more secure alternatives for a variety of tasks at a relatively low TCO. Any improvements in capacity and functionality cannot harm the platform.

It is clear that Apple must continue to accelerate the iPad range. While shipments soared from 21 to a peak of 17.5 million in the fourth quarter, component-related logistical issues reduced sales to 12.1 million in the first quarter of 22. While Apple maintains its leadership position in the tablet market, it will who want to consolidate and expand the market; multitasking improvements should help it achieve that. The fact that tablets now have high-performance Mac processors makes this an obvious target. That so little is known about Apple’s plans for iPad OS 16 (along with little insight into iOS 16) means that all eyes (virtual and otherwise) will be on Apple’s WWDC announcements on June 6, which is fast approaching.

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