Multitasking_Air

iOS 8 is likely to supercharge the functionality of Apple’s iPad with a new split-screen multitasking feature, according to sources with knowledge of the enhancement in development. These people say that the feature will allow iPad users to run and interact with two iPad applications at once. Up until now, each iPad application either developed by Apple or available on the App Store is only usable individually in a full-screen view.

The ability to use multiple applications simultaneously on a tablet’s display takes a page out of Microsoft’s playbook. Microsoft’s Surface line of tablets has a popular “snap” multitasking feature that allows customers to snap multiple apps onto the screen for simultaneous usage. The feature is popular in the enterprise and in environments where users need to handle multiple tasks at the same time.

Microsoft has even released an ad comparing multitasking features for the Surface and iPad:

The feature has opened up the door for the Surface to be a true laptop replacement, and will further herald the iPad as Apple’s vision of the future for mobile computing.

In addition to allowing for two iPad apps to be used at the same time, the feature is designed to allow for apps to more easily interact, according to the sources. For example, a user may be able to drag content, such as text, video, or images, from one app to another. Apple is said to be developing capabilities for developers to be able to design their apps to interact with each other. This functionality may mean that Apple is finally ready to enable “XPC” support in iOS (or improved inter-app communication), which means that developers could design App Store apps that could share content.

A split-screen iPad multitasking feature has been requested by iPad fans for several years and some designers have even designed sample user-interfaces, unofficial tweaks, and videos for how they would like the feature to function. The feature is said to be designed with the 9.7-inch iPad display in mind, and it is unclear if the feature will work on the smaller-screened iPad mini. The feature is said to work exclusively in landscape mode. The feature may also be key to a larger-screened iPad, which Apple is actively developing for a launch either later this year or in 2015.

wwdc14-home-branding-v2

In addition to multitasking changes for the iPad, iOS 8 is said to include a slew of other features. Apple is working on a Healthbook application for the iPhone that would connect to medical/fitness devices and applications to track points of interest such as blood data, calorie intake, sleep cycles, and weight changes. Apple is also investing in improvements to iCloud’s infrastructure and iOS applications as well as a public transit routing feature for the Maps app. Some of these features, including iPad split-screen multitasking and transit directions, could be pushed back to iOS 8.1 or cancelled altogether, according to multiple sources.

Besides the few aforementioned new applications, Apple is focusing on speed and performance enhancements as well as user-interface refinements in iOS 8. As one source said, “think of iOS 8 as being what OS X Mavericks was to OS X last year:” an update with several refinements, a few new apps, and new ways of handling tasks. Apple will officially unwrap iOS 8, as well as a redesigned version of the Mac operating system, at a keynote address on June 2nd, and we will have full coverage of the event as well as new information about the announcements as we hear it.

iOS 8 iPad multitasking mockup created by Michael Steeber.