Apple’s big special software event, WWDC, is a busy time of year for Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering. In the two-hour keynote, he was rarely far from center stage, introducing new features for Apple Watch, iPhone, Mac, and iPad. Even so, he found the time to sit down with me and tell me why he thinks this is a key year for the iPad.
I started by asking him how software for the iPad and the Mac seem to come together all the time. So what sets the two platforms apart?
“I love using them both and I use them at different times. I think the Mac, when it comes to connecting to massive external storage, lots of displays, etc., shows that it there’s just a lot of power and a lot of capability for hobbyists. It’s something that’s basically a development platform. But the iPad just has massive versatility in how you can use it and how it connects to the world, you can take it with you, you can hold it in your hands and lean back, you can switch it to portrait orientation when you want to read.You can connect it to an external keyboard and a trackpad when you want to work that way. You can pull out a pencil and doodle on it.
“It has fantastic cameras so you can capture the world and do AR captures and experiences with it. And now you can connect it to external displays. So, I feel like the iPad is this ultimate take-anywhere, do-it-all versatility, which I think is fantastic.
So, does adding a keyboard and mouse to an iPad perhaps turn it into a touchscreen MacBook?
“I think the experience remains distinct. We’ve been using car and truck analogies for many years and I think they’re instructive. You can do a lot of the same things with a car and a truck and they’re both valid forms of transportation but they’re still different at their center and I think the iPad at their center is that touch first hold -the -your hands system which is also designed around simplicity and concentration at its core. »
Which brings us to the final productivity option, Stage Manager, which is a handy way to manage multiple windows on the iPad screen. A version will also be available in the next software for Mac.
With Stage Manager, you can only have four applications live at a time (plus four more if you have an external monitor connected). Why this limitation?
“On iPad, we have this tamper-proof bar for the smoothness and responsiveness of the experience. If it’s a touch-based experience, you expect to get a response the moment you put your finger down and start moving: anything less than that breaks the feeling of your connection to the device And so we have an extremely high bar that we have to hit on responsiveness and that means we have to make sure we balance the amount of computing power and graphics capability of the device, with how many apps could possibly do live responsive stuff and still be completely responsive to the user.
“Also, we wanted, from a user experience perspective, to be in line with. I think the Gestalt of the iPad, to make sure you’re not chasing and managing hidden windows. Anyone on a Mac who opens a ton of windows knows that what ultimately happens is that you have a lot of windows that are covered or almost covered and you’re constantly moving things around and selectively hiding things. wanted on iPad to be a completely automatic experience, we could keep all of your windows that you had on stage accessible at once, so with four windows we can automatically push them so they all remain accessible for you. It turned out to be a really balanced solution.
Which brings us to the fact that this blazing new feature is only available on the latest iPad Pro and iPad Air models. To be fair, Apple was very upfront about this during the keynote, opening the section with the note that the upcoming features were for iPads with the M1 processor only. I asked Federighi why only M1 can play with Stage Manager. The first factor was “maintaining the responsiveness of the experience” – that thing mentioned above about not breaking the metaphor – and the need for the fast virtual memory swap that Apple uses on the M1 iPads to to make things progress. Has Apple even tried to make Stage Manager work with the other iPads in the line?
“We started some of our prototyping involving these systems and it became clear early on that we couldn’t deliver the experience we were hoping for with them. Certainly we would like to bring a new experience to every device we can, but we also don’t want to hold back the definition of a new experience and not create the best foundation for the future in that experience. And we could only really do that by building on the M1.”
This year seems to be a bigger year than last for the iPad, although it also brought important updates. “Sometimes there are features that take years to develop. Every year is a big year for what we work hard on. , take a lot of groundwork over a long period of time, so it’s been nice to be able to highlight all of the capabilities that we’ve been focusing on for a long time, but yeah, I think it’s a big year for the iPad.
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