Since the first iteration of the iPad, users have requested a better way to multitask that includes two apps running on the same screen simultaneously. Samsung’s Touchwiz Android skin and Microsoft Windows 8 both have versions of the feature, and according to a report from 9to5Mac, the iPad will soon be getting it as well.
Mark Gurman’s report, which cites unidentified sources, said the feature will allow iPad users to run two apps at the same time on either half of the screen. This is a major change for Apple. Currently, all officially available apps can only run individually, in full-screen mode. In addition to running two apps at the same time, the update will reportedly allow separate apps to interact with each other, such as dragging text or images from one app to the other. This implies that Apple will finally let developers design App Store apps that can share content with each other.
The ability to run applications simultaneously has been a major differentiating point for both Samsung’s Galaxy Note line of phone-tablet hybrids and Microsoft’s Surface tablets. Samsung’s Multi Window feature was the focal point of a short spot back in 2012, and earlier this year Microsoft Canada released a Youtube video titled “Multi-tasking: Surface 2 vs. iPad Air.“
If Apple were to launch a larger-screened iPad, as it is rumored to be working on, the ability to run two apps simultanously would become significantly more important. However, Apple does make great use of screen real estate on smaller devices. I believe the split-screen functionality would be a novelty on the iPhone if it is even implemented, somewhat unnecessary on the iPad mini, and a great addition to the iPad Air.
OS Experience, an app for jailbroken iPads, allows for same-screen multitasking and was released earlier this month. While Apple’s eventual implementation will most likely different from anything designed for jailbroken devices, the OS Experience demo video is a good example of the advantages split-screen multitasking could offer.
Apple will likely reveal more about iOS 8 at the World Wide Developers Conference from June 2 through June 6.