WWDC: Is Apple preparing for a massive upgrade to the iPad?

The lack of true multi-tasking has long been a critique on the iPad, but it may (or may not) change, and we’ll learn more (or may not) at Apple’s World Developers Conference (WWDC). The big event will start on June 6th.

Let’s merge, let’s merge

Evidence of change is scattered – it consists of additional webkit code for a multitasking mode that suggests free-to-repeat windows. What this might mean in practice is that you can open multiple windows on the iPad and resize them to your liking, closer to the Mac experience.

Developer Steve Trafton-Smith guessed The code could potentially support newer iPad OS-powered devices, as well as provide a user experience similar to a Mac desktop.

Apple is bringing the iPad and Mac user experiences closer together, while respecting the differences between the two. Proved by Universal Control announced in 2021 that the approach extends to complementary use. The latter allows you to use a Mac and an iPad with a mouse and keyboard, and controls enhanced sharing across both platforms – you can drag items between devices, for example. The sum of the two devices used together becomes larger than the parts, while both devices retain their uniqueness.

Now with the big engine

With Apple Silicon, both devices now have much larger engines. With that in mind, it’s interesting to note that despite Apple’s use of the Mac-Class M1 Apple Silicon Chip across most of the iPad range, little is known about how the iPad OS 16 plans to harness that processing power. Apple will not have it. The range has been driven for no good reason, but speculation is clearly missing in recent weeks.

What we’ve heard include advanced notifications and vague words about “new ways to interact with apps” and “fresh Apple apps”. What we do know is that notifications, health apps, and a platform for the future development of the company’s anticipated AR glasses suggest improvements.

The supposed code-name for Apple’s next macOS iteration is “mammoth”, which makes sense in anticipation of big news around the company’s platforms. The changes we see for the Mac will resonate on the iPad and vice versa. This makes it much more understandable that Apple has huge plans for productivity devices that it doesn’t.

The direction of travel

Looking back a year ago, Universal Control was probably the most anticipated feature announced at the WWDC last year. Apple’s iPad desiccator has also been clarified with slide over, split view, still multi-window shelf and more. Even the introduction of the ability to create apps in the Swift Playground points to a journey towards greater efficiency in harnessing the power of these machines.

Apple has significantly refined the multitasking experience on iPadOS in recent years, improving features like slide over, split view and dock. For example, the iPadOS 15 adds a more intuitive experience to the top of apps, including a new multitasking menu, as well as a center window, a new multi-window shelf, and a split view. The latest speculation about resizable Windows is by far the biggest claim coming, and hints at another round of multitasking improvements on the iPad.

What could this mean for business?

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

What this means is straightforward. Apple continues its mission to provide a user experience that feels equally familiar to both the iPad and the Mac. This does not mean uniform experience – each platform has its own unique qualities – but includes everything from identical keyboard shortcuts to pointers and keyboard support. This effort means that iPads are becoming a replacement for a growing number of work-capable computers.

One of the best barometers for this growing functionality is Photoshop for the iPad. That app seems to be in accelerated development, and just a few weeks ago Adobe added two incredibly powerful tools to the iPad app – Content Aware Fill and Remove Background.

As the iPad functionality continues to improve, the product family has become an increasingly viable alternative platform. This is important because the innate mobility of the iPad allows Apple to develop completely new solutions around its proprietary underlying technology. Think of kiosks, wearables, e-paper devices, smart entertainment systems, and so on.

In the short term, any improvements to Apple’s iPad OS will have an immediate effect on mobile professionals who now use tablets instead of notebooks. Improvements to multi-tasking only make devices more capable, while performance improvements and the apps they support will do the same.

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

Pitching for upgraded business

It’s also important to note – especially since millions of Windows PCs hit EOL – iPads already offer a more efficient, powerful, and more secure alternative to a myriad of tasks at relatively low TCO. No improvement in efficiency and effectiveness can hit the platform.

It is clear that Apple must keep pace behind the iPad range. While shipments peaked at 17.5 million in 21 Q4, component-related logistics problems reduced sales to 12.1 million. When Apple takes the lead in the tablet market, it will want to consolidate and advance that market; Improving multitasking should help achieve this. Its tablets now boast a high-end Mac processor making it an obvious target. Little is known about Apple’s plans for the iPad OS 16 (with a little insight into iOS 16), meaning all eyes will be on (virtually and otherwise) Apple’s WWDC announcement June 6, fast approaching.

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