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Multitasking in iOS 9 makes the iPad a true post-PC device

Michael Simon | June 16, 2015
The iPad has always been a paradox. While it may have been built to fill the rather sizable gap between the iPhone and Mac, it never really embraced its own identity, playing second fiddle to each of the devices it was stuck between. Consequently, Apple's mighty tablet has never quite been able to live up to the lofty expectations it created as the de facto leader of the post-PC revolution.

The iPad has always been a paradox. While it may have been built to fill the rather sizable gap between the iPhone and Mac, it never really embraced its own identity, playing second fiddle to each of the devices it was stuck between. Consequently, Apple's mighty tablet has never quite been able to live up to the lofty expectations it created as the de facto leader of the post-PC revolution.

But all that's about to change. During the middle of his WWDC presentation, Craig Federighi somewhat surprisingly devoted an entire segment to the iPad, highlighting several exclusive features that power users have been clamoring for. For the first time since its launch, Apple seems to want the iPad to be a device that will truly transform the way we work. With iOS 9, Apple has refocused its attention on what the iPad is and can be, positioning it as a powerful, versatile tool that seeks to redefine the role the Mac plays in Apple's ecosystem.

Task and you shall receive

The biggest difference between iOS and OS X has always been multitasking. Even more than how they handle files and apps, Macs run circles around iPads when it comes to doing more than one thing at once, deftly letting us surf the web while writing, or watch a video while clearing out our inboxes. iOS 9 doesn't quite bring desktop-level multitasking to our iPads, at least not yet, but Apple has finally devised a way to let us run two apps simultaneously. And in true Cupertino fashion, it's an elegant, sophisticated solution.

The most obvious implementation for tablet multitasking — and one that has is already utilized on the Samsung Galaxy Tab — has always been to simply split the screen down the center to allow two apps to run side by side. And while Apple did adopt what it's calling Split View for the iPad Air 2, it also understood that the method isn't ideal for all uses. In fact, it's probably the aspect of multitasking most people are likely to use the least. More often than not I'm not specifically looking to run two apps together; rather I just want to grab a quick piece of information from an email or quickly look up something on the web, and I don't need to keep the second app visible for very long.

That's where Slide Over comes in. Like the Notification Center on OS X, it can be activated by swiping from from the right side of the screen, bringing up a skinny version of an app operating in its own window. It's a perfect way to respond to a message or quickly copy a bit of text into a note without needing to divert too much attention away from the main app you're working in.

 

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