Saturday, June 6, 2015

Apple adds multitasking feature to iPad

Apple has now added up a new feature of multitasking for the people who want to make more use of their iPads -- a long-sought addition to its tablets -- with its new iOS 9 mobile operating system. This change reflects the best example of Apple’s tendency to ‘telegraph’ future product. 

Apple is encouraging developers to stop thinking about their user interfaces in terms of specific devices and orientation, and to start thinking in terms of different view types, in the interest of building interfaces that work with the multitasking mode introduced for using apps side-by-side on iPad in iOS 9. 
 "iPad has always supported forms of multitasking," Craig Federighi, senior vice president of software engineering, said Monday at Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference. "But for iOS 9, we're taking it to a whole new place."

 While users typically can only use one app at a time on an iPad screen, the new multitasking function on the iPad Air 2 will let them create a split screen of two apps side-by-side, called 

"Split View," being able to use both at the same time. Another feature, called "Slide Over," lets users swipe in a second app from the side without having to close the first app. Also, users can create a picture-in-picture, such as allowing someone to watch a football match in a smaller screen while looking something up on a web browser. 

 These kind of multi-window features has already been available in some competing tablets, but comes to Apple's tablets now for the first time. Split View will be available only the iPad Air 2. Slide Over and picture-in-picture will be available for the iPad Air, iPad Air 2, iPad Mini 2 and iPad Mini 3. The changes could help ramp up demand for the iPad, one of Apple's most-important devices but one that's been a weak spot for the company. In the quarter that ended in March, the tablet posted its fifth consecutive decline to 12.6 million units sold from 16.4 million a year earlier. 

Consumers have been holding on to their tablets for longer and opting to purchase bigger-screen iPhones and Macs instead. Apple introduced its newest tablets -- the iPad Air 2 and the iPad Mini 3 -- in October, but analysts said their incremental changes, including faster processors, weren't enough to attract buyers. The company, which has long claimed iPad weakness is a "speed bump," is now counting on a partnership with IBM to increase iPad sales to business users. Multitasking functions could be a big benefit for those kinds of customers. 

 Apple CEO Tim Cook, while acknowledging that iPad sales are weak, has said 
"it's not something that worries Apple. He expects iPad sales to stabilize at some point but couldn't predict when it would happen."

  Previous versions of Apple’s developer tools encouraged those building apps to think in terms of interface orientation, with portrait and landscape acting as the primary situators. The new way of thinking favours ‘compact’ and ‘regular’ width views, with compact being what we’d traditionally associate with an iPhone portrait look, for instance, and regular looking like larger Apple devices, including the iPhone 6 Plus and iPad, in landscape (often displaying multiple columns at once). Rather than being tied to devices, however, this new method allows for side-by-side views on iPad, including the one-third slide over mode, where an app has a single column that takes up just a small portion of the iPad’s overall screen, or split view, where it’s taking up a full half of the available real estate. In the new paradigm, it’s not about devices or which way the display is oriented; it’s about how a user has selected to view apps on the same display in multitasking mode. 

 This is significant because, like Apple’s attempts to encourage developers to get on board with adaptive user interfaces last year in preparation for the then-unannounced iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, this seems to be Apple subtly saying that developers should expect to see more in the way of split displays in future iOS devices. The iPad Air 2 is currently the only application that supports true split view, multi-app interactivity (others let you peek at secondary apps without interacting with both simultaneously). But it’s clear that future generations of iPad will likely support this across devices, including likely on an updated iPad mini with an improved processor. 

The rumoured iPad Pro is also a prime candidate for this type of interface, given its likely focus on work and productivity applications. I’d go even further and suggest that Apple might be thinking long-term about how this could apply broadly to all iOS devices – the 6 Plus already behaves a lot like an iPad when used in landscape mode, for instance, and it’s not hard to envision it supporting a split-screen interface given the flexibility of a single-column vertical scroll mechanism for apps like iMessage or Notes. 

 Some developers I’ve spoken to say that while the change in thinking seems a little daunting at first, modifying iPad apps to take advantage of the new multi-tasking powers in iOS 9 actually shouldn’t be that difficult. And Apple’s making it clear this time – doing so will reap benefits long-term in terms of addressing unannounced hardware platform that may appear in the future. .

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