The iPad has been one of the most useful tablets available from the day it first launched, and over the years it’s become even more powerful. But there’s one thing holding it back: its inability to display more than one app at a time. It’s possible this limitation will be removed soon, however.
Windows already has split-screen multitasking, and Samsung has modified Android to add this feature to many of its tablets. And both Microsoft and Samsung run TV ads that criticize Apple‘s tablet for lacking it.
Some iPad owners have been requesting this feature for years, and more of them should be asking for it now. The ability to have two apps open simultaneously is a feature that adds dramatically to the usefulness of any computer.
It allows people to write an email while referencing the contents of a Word document or web page open in another panel, to have a video chat session going while also using the computer to do other things, or to have a two spreadsheets open side-by-side to compare their contents. And these are just a few examples for the hundreds of possibilities
Hopefully Coming Soon
Apple’s developers’ conference starts June 2, and by promising that it will be showing off “the future of iOS” the company has telegraphed that it will preview the next version of its mobile operating system at this event. An unconfirmed report that cites only unnamed sources indicates that one of the highlights of iOS 8 will be support for split-screen multitasking.
Not surprisingly, details are sketchy. It’s possible Apple will also include ways for side-by-side apps to more easily interact, like dragging text from one app to the other.
Software for Apple tablets supports two resolutions, 1024×768 for older models and 2048×1536 for ones with Retina screens, like the iPad Air. This means iOS 8 could allow two 1024×768 apps to run side-by-size on a 2048×1536 display with minimal effort by third-party developers modifying their software to take advantage of this new feature. This would limit on-screen multitaking to iPads with Retina displays, of course, leaving out the first-generation iPad mini. It’s very unlikely split-screen support will come to the iPhone models, as their screens are too small.
While the reports of this feature remain unconfirmed, Apple has been moving in this direction for years. Initially, the iOS had very little support for running multiple background processes, but subsequent versions have made this much more robust. At the same time, the processors running each new generation of iPad model have become ever more capable, to the point where the 64-bit Apple A7 chip in the iPad Air is almost overkill. The A8 processor in the iPad Air 2 is expected to be even more powerful, just what’s needed for multitasking.
Apple is clearly ready take the next step into with split-screen multitasking… a very necessary step if the iPad is going to keep pace with its rivals and meet its users’ expectations.