An iPadOS rumor has it that Apple’s tablet software might get two major updates at WWDC 2022 that I really want to see happen: a desktop mode and resizable app windows.
This is from the developer Steve Troughton-Smith (opens in a new tab), after reviewing recently committed code for Apple’s open-source WebKit, the engine used by Apple developers to build browsers for iPhone and iPad. Within it, he found references (opens in a new tab) to a previously unknown switchable multitasking mode that enables fully resizable app windows on iPadOS. He compares it to how you can switch Windows 10 or Windows 11 to tablet mode, which makes the operating system easier to use with touch controls.
I know it’s better not to get excited about the improvements in the iPad because we’ve been burned so many times… But WebKit just added infrastructure for a “multitasking mode” on iOS that feels like a toggle system that allows freely resizable windows https://t.co/NBNGhHiaxBMay 26, 2022
While there are only limited rumors about what to expect for iPadOS 16, another source (leaker Majin Bu (opens in a new tab)) also explained how connecting a keyboard and trackpad to an iPad will enable this multitasking feature, but that it might be an iPad M1 exclusive and may not appear in iPadOS 16. Assuming that ‘Apple isn’t holding back this feature for a future version of iPadOS, I’m glad to hear it’s a future possibility.
The features the iPad needs to replace a laptop
Apple has been marketing iPads as replacements for laptops for quite some time, but as good as the best iPads are, we’ve seen time and time again that they still aren’t capable of replacing the best laptops, even with accessories like the magic keyboard. One of the main obstacles to this is the current limitation of the use of multitasking and mouse and keyboard on the iPad.
With iPadOS 15 you’re limited to one full-size or two half-size apps with a narrow sliding window you can hide off-screen, which I find sufficient for the odd writing task but nowhere near enough windows for my usual Windows 10 workflow. You can also open multiple instances of an app in iPadOS, but these are still limited to the same window sizes as before and can only be used one at a time.
iPad keyboard compatibility is actually quite good, including a few shortcuts for easier navigation. Using the mouse, however, isn’t so smooth, as it still has to interact with an interface designed for touch and gestures, which makes basic tasks like copy/paste or switching apps clumsy.
Having a regular desktop with resizable windows would therefore be a huge boon for users. This would make using multiple apps together much smoother and more customizable, rather than based on binding presets. Hopefully it would also make using peripherals less inconvenient if the desktop came with remapped controls that were better navigated with taps and clicks than your finger.
I doubt it’s as versatile as the resizable windows you get on macOS or Windows 11, since mobile app developers won’t initially have their apps ready to go with different window sizes. However, it may be enough for some users to decide that it’s easier to work on their iPad than a laptop they wouldn’t otherwise use, and hopefully developers will adapt their apps in time so that they work in the new layout.
Improved multitasking could also prove to be a great use of the M1 chip that Apple now uses in the iPad Pro and iPad Air. Although individual applications are not able to tax the powerful silicon, several applications could use the latent potential. And piss me off, I just bought a refurbished 2020 iPad Pro that uses an A-series chip instead.
WWDC begins on June 6, with the keynote that morning expected to reveal all new software. Rumors have been muted for iPadOS compared to iOS 16, macOS 13, and other new Apple operating system updates, making it unclear if this window resizing capability will be coming soon. I really hope it does, because it will remove one of the heaviest shackles currently limiting the iPad’s potential as a work device.
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