Apple’s iPad models are incredibly powerful, so much so that it often feels like software is holding back hardware – and that’s especially true with the desktop chips that now power several iPad models.
For power iPad users, one of the biggest frustrations with daily use of their devices is the lack of true multi-window multitasking, but that could be about to change if the latest is to be believed. rumor.
On Twitter, self-proclaimed researcher Majin Bu claims that “Apple is developing a smart system for iPadOS” that will allow apps to run full screen but allow them to “shrink automatically when connected to the keyboard and trackpad.” Internally called Apple Mixer, apparently the feature might not come to iPadOS 16, might be exclusive to M1, or, you know, might not exist at all, but that still excites me for the future of the iPad.
Opening the way
iOS, and by extension iPadOS, was designed to largely step aside and allow content to fill your screen. This simplicity has proven extremely popular, but it hasn’t particularly suited the larger, more powerful iPad models.
As larger iPad screens began to arrive, the ability to view more than one app at a time also increased, but the iPad’s multitasking experience is still pretty rudimentary. Features like drag and drop have made using an iPad feel more like a computer, but it’s still not quite there and, especially at the Pro end of the iPad range. , hardware is brought to its knees by software.
Windowing is where iPadOS always breaks down.
Added the keyboard and, more importantly, touchpad iPadOS support has made the experience much more laptop-like and has opened up new ways of working where touch is too imprecise, although windowing is still where the experience falls. .
I had hoped that iPadOS 15 could fundamentally reinvent the iPad software experience after a lackluster release of iPadOS 14, but the 2021 update focused mostly on improving core experiences. iPadOS 15 has improved the discoverability and usability of multitasking, but not how it actually works, although we may have had a glimpse of a floating window future with the new Quick Note feature.
Of course, I’m running away saying that this rumor is true at this point, but the idea of automatically switching modes based on devices sounds incredible. Thanks to the Smart Connector, an iPad Pro or iPad Air 5 immediately detects when it has been magnetically attached to a Magic Keyboard. A connected Bluetooth keyboard and mouse could elicit the same response in software.
Keeping multi-window mode hidden with no keyboard or trackpad connected is the right choice.
Discoverability is a potential problem, and Apple has often hidden some of its more advanced features behind gestures or deep in accessibility settings pages. However, given the emphasis on the productivity of a real potential windowing experience and the awkwardness of trying to resize small windows with big fingers, I think this would be a case where a power user feature has reason to be hidden, this time unavailable until the correct devices are detected.
I imagine, again if this rumor turns out to be true, that this windowing experience would also work well with Universal Control, allowing you to move freely between many windows on your Mac and iPad using a single mouse and keyboard .
Two floating windows ≠ good multitasking
Many people sitting in front of a Mac or PC for work will keep a ton of windows open all day, every day. Right now I have Mail, Safari, Music, Slack, and Notes open on my Mac screen. When working from my iPad, I only have two of these apps open at a time and have to switch between the different multitasking views I have set up.
The ability to have three or more apps open on screen at once, with windows that can be dynamically resized to suit my needs, would be a huge boon. Those who like to work this way will appreciate it, those who prefer to use one application at a time will still be able to do so. There are very few downsides.
People who spend laptop-like prices on one of the best iPads and a Magic Keyboard today expect a laptop-like experience, and iPadOS doesn’t offer one. still really. Proper Windows support would certainly win a lot of people over and be a powerful marketing message for the higher end iPad models and the Magic Keyboard accessory.
People spending laptop-like prices expect a laptop-like experience.
However, the example shown in Majin Bu’s tweet simply has two smaller windows on an iPad screen. This alone is not an improvement over what we have today with Split Screen.
The suggestion seems to be that these can be placed arbitrarily on the screen, there is room for more than two windows, and there may even be the ability to resize, overlap and arrange them As you wish. This Mac-like multitasking experience is sorely lacking in iPadOS, and is especially noticeable when using a keyboard and trackpad that are already so Mac-like in terms of hardware.
It remains to be seen how Apple solves power management when multiple apps are all visible at once. So far it’s been pretty good at handling app background states on mobile and macOS is already smart about prioritizing power to visible windows over those not actively in use, so I’m sure there might be an efficient way to do it. Either way, those who choose to use this mode may be happy to sacrifice some of the iPad’s exceptional battery life for an enhanced multitasking experience.
Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference is a few months away and we’ll no doubt see Apple’s vision for the future of the iPad showcased with the unveiling of iPadOS 16.
While this feature may not be ready for the next version of iPadOS, according to the backer, it or something similar is surely on Apple’s docket for iPad in the near future.