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iOS 8 split-screen hints at iPad's enterprise ambition

Gregg Keizer | May 16, 2014
Chatter about multi-app display might be Apple figuring out how to boost tablet sales to businesses.

"What we have to do in enterprise is focus on penetration," said Cook of the iPad last month. "It has to be deeper and broader." In other words, sell more iPads.

Carolina Milanesi, chief of research at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, heard Cook's comments, too, and wondered how much significance to give them. Her conclusion: Apple will expand the iPad line, probably with a model sporting a larger 12-in. display. And that size says "business" or, at least, "productivity."

"They can't do a 12-in. iPad as just a piece of glass," she said, referring to consumption tasks like watching video or reading books, e-magazines and websites. "So what are they going to give it?"

Her immediate thought was a tablet able to handle more of the tasks traditionally associated with personal computers, the kind of content creation exemplified by Microsoft Office, which hit the iPad at the end of March.

Her thinking wasn't from left field, as Cook spoke kindly about Office last month, perhaps giving Apple-ologists another clue of its iPad intentions. "I do see that Office is still a very key franchise in the enterprise, in particular," Cook said. "And I think having it on iPad is good, and I wholeheartedly welcome Microsoft to the App Store to sell Office. Our customers are clearly responding in a good way that it's available. So, I do think it helps us, particularly in the enterprise area."

An iPad designed with Office's kind of productivity in mind would benefit enormously from split-screen — Word open on one side, Excel on the other -- probably also a detachable keyboard, making it the kind of hybrid 2-in-1 modeled by Microsoft's Surface and similar devices from other Windows OEMs.

"Split-screen gives you something to do with all that space of a larger iPad," said Patrick Moorhead, principal analysts at Moor Insights & Strategy. "So it fits in with the rumored larger commercial device."

Like O'Donnell, Moorhead saw an Apple push, whether explicit or through the backdoor of BYOD (bring your own device), as a way to grow sales. "It's really about what they have left to conquer, isn't it?" said Moorhead. "The last bastion [of the PC] is the commercial market. And although the iPad has been pretty successful in the vertical [business] markets, with a side-by-side [multi-app view] it would give the iPad more of a horizontal commercial application."

But some remain skeptical of the split-screen rumor.

"iOS gaining access to multiple screens would chip away at another advantage the Mac has versus the iPad," noted Ross Rubin of Reticle Research on his Techpressive blog.

Apple has become famous for its stance on cannibalization — it's always better to cannibalize oneself rather than let someone else do it, and rake in the dollars you're losing — so perhaps that wouldn't stop Apple. Except Cook has slammed 2-in-1s, devices that try to be a part-time tablet, a part-time PC, once deriding them as akin to creating a combination toaster-refrigerator, then again as "a fairly compromised and confusing product" analogous to "a car that flies and floats."


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