Google has apparently committed to enhancing the next major version of Android with support for displaying two applications running side-by-side. This will bring the OS more into parity with Microsoft’s and Apple’s offerings.
Windows has had support for split-screen multitasking for decades — it’s right there in the name — but this feature was only added to recent-iPad versions with the release of iOS 9 this fall. It’s this move that has tremendously increased the pressure to bring greater support for multitasking to Android N, the version of this OS in development now.
Several Google employees held a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) this week, and the topic of split-screen multitasking came up numerous times. After a bit of hemming and hawing, Andrew Bowers, Director for Consumer Hardware, eventually said:
“We’re working on lots of things right now for N that, of course, we wish we had, you know, yesterday. But we’d spoil the surprise of N if we shared all of them. Split screen is in the works!”
Google has not yet revealed when Android N will be available, but if the company follows previous practices then it won’t debut until next fall, as the newest version, Android 6 Marshmallow, just launched recently and is still available on only a handful of tablets and phones.
The lack of side-by-side multitasking is being pointed out as a weakness in Google’s Pixel C, a new 2-in-1 tablet. For several years, Samsung has modified the version of Android used in its tablets and phablets so that they have a version of on-screen multitasking.