A more perfect iPad

iPad_futureApple held its annual Worldwide Developer’s Conference in June, and, as expected, announced and demonstrated the next versions of Mac OS X and iOS—respectively referred to as El Capitan and iOS 9.

Remarkably, while there were many enhancements on display, the theme for these new OS releases is improved stability and performance. This is always good news, because, in the wake of Apple’s aggressive new product announcements and release schedules, users find all kinds of minor bugs and sometimes serious issues to gripe about.

For example, a pernicious Wi-Fi issue has apparently plagued a lot of Mac OS X and iOS users. While I haven’t experienced the issue, that doesn’t mean it’s not real.

In the Snow Leopard tradition

A few years ago, Apple did its users a solid by releasing Snow Leopard, a Mac OS X version that had minor enhancements but major stability and performance improvements across the board.

Snow-LeopardThe major complaint with Snow Leopard was that it didn’t support Mac computers that were older than three or four years, and it dropped support for the PowerPC and a few other aging features. But, hey, progress marches forward.

Nonetheless, Snow Leopard was a huge improvement for many, reducing the OS footprint, freeing up disk space, providing improved memory management, and laying a rock-solid foundation for future Mac OS X updates.

Since Snow Leopard, there’ve been four major Mac OS X updates, each bringing a host of new features and, along with them, new issues. Apparently Apple felt it was time to repeat similar pruning and polishing of its flagship OS.

What does this all have to do with the iPad?

Well not a lot just yet. But alongside MacOS X, Apple announced iOS 9, and a similar plan to focus on stability and performance improvements, as well as add some exciting new features.

iPad-experienceThe new mobile OS will be available as a public Beta in July, and for general release in September, probably along with some new hardware.

There has been a rumor that a new 12-inch iPad is in development, and in that context, some of the iOS 9 feature enhancements make a lot of sense.

In essence, the iPad Air 2 and future iPads will become business-class devices, with improved multi-tasking, split-screen features, better third-party keyboard support, and more. In the context of Apple’s push into the enterprise, and its partnership with IBM, the new developments begin to clarify Apple’s strategy to put more iPads in the enterprise.

Can a tablet replace a laptop?

With iOS 9, Apple is going to great pains to fully support and speed up older iOS devices. Those devices, such as older iPads and iPhones, will reportedly run faster and require less storage to install iOS 9.table-for-biz

To the disappointment of many who own older iPads, however, many of the enterprise class features in iOS 9 will require at least an iPad Air 2. The iPad Air 2 was delivered with the faster A8 processor and 2GB of memory, and the theory is that these components are required to support the more power-hungry features that businesses require.

Of course, there’s the more cynical view that Apple has instituted that requirement to sell more iPads, but I don’t believe that’s true.

Even with iOS 9, the iPad Air 2 is probably not going to be a universal laptop replacement. First, it only has a 9-inch screen. Second, there are many specialized applications that laptop users rely on that do not yet run on iOS.

However, if, indeed, Apple releases a 12-inch iPad in September, maybe there will be some additional capabilities, some add-on accessories (e.g., keyboard, stylus), some new third-party applications and partnerships, and other things that will make the new device a worthy laptop successor for a large segment of the user population.

Enhanced capabilities

For now, we know that iOS 9 will have some nifty new productivity enhancements that may be enough to convince users to give up their laptops. Here are just a few:

Split view will enable the user to have two apps open and active at the same time. If I’m writing a blog post, for example, the ability to write in one app while I’m doing research in another will be a godsend.

split-view2

Easy text selection. To select, edit, and move text, the cursor can be controlled by simply moving two fingers anywhere on the screen, including over the keyboard. This effectively turns the screen into a touch pad similar to those found on laptops.

screen-touch-pad

With a new shortcut bar, users will be able to bold, italicize, underline, copy and paste text from the keyboard. Apple claims that the shortcut bar can also be customized for third-party apps.

short-cut-bar

Finally, Apple is adding better support for third-party keyboards and keyboard shortcuts. With iOS 9 toolkits, keyboard manufacturers and app developers presumably will be able to create customizations that will give users even more control over their iPad experience.

One can only imagine all the possibilities.

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