Apple's Finally Making the iPad More Like a Mac (For Multitasking, at Least)
New collaboration software, better multitasking and actual monitor support come to iPadOS.
Scott SteinEditor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
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Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Ian Sherr (he/him/his) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so he's always had a connection to the tech world. At CNET, he wrote about Apple, Microsoft, VR, video games and internet troubles. Aside from writing, he tinkers with tech at home, is a longtime fencer -- the kind with swords -- and began woodworking during the pandemic.
The new changes to the iPad represent another key shift to the device, aiming to advance the "pro" capabilities of Apple's tablets. While Apple's added to the power and capabilities of its iPads, the software has been criticized by many reviewers, including us at CNET, for not offering enough functionality.
Apple appears ready to answer many of those concerns with its newest software, which will come as a free update in the fall.
Some features, like sharing documents through Messages collaboratively, are extensions of new iOS 16 sharing features on the iPhone. It looks like FaceTime calls could happen while working on a shared document more easily, and work while keeping FaceTime open. It looks like a step towards virtual collaborative work solutions for Apple, similar to what Google and Microsoft already use. SharePlay, which is Apple's connected social framework introduced last year, is also coming to Apple's GameCenter for starting multiplayer games.
Apple also has a collaborative workspace app called Freeform, coming later this year, that will work like a giant whiteboard. Invited collaborators could can start adding stuff at the same time. Freeform is coming to iOS and MacOS, too.
iPadOS 16 is also aiming to make better use of more advanced iPads that feature Apple's M1 chip. Metal 3 promises better graphics, but Apple's also aiming to add more desktop-like features in apps: Some will have customizable toolbars, and the Files app looks like it's finally getting a little more versatile for file management.
M1 iPads are getting display scaling to create an effectively larger-feeling display, allowing more app screen space (but with smaller text and images). There's also free-form window resizing, along with external display support. Both features have been overdue on iPadOS. Stage Manager, a MacOS feature that's coming later this year, is also on iPadOS. The result looks to be windows that can overlap and be different sizes, just like a Mac.
Watch this: Apple Shows Latest iPad OS
And external displays work like extra screen space now instead of just mirroring the iPad. The feature's limited to eight apps running on-screen at once, but that's a lot more than what was available before.
There's also, finally, a Weather app (a longtime missing app, for some reason).
Apple announced its software updates as part of its Worldwide Developer Conference, or WWDC, being held online and in person at its Apple Park headquarters in Cupertino, California.
For eager fans who can't wait until the fall, Apple should offer a public "beta" test version of its iPadOS software in July, although specific dates for that haven't been announced. While it may seem tempting to do that, we at CNET recommend you only do so on a device you don't rely on day to day, just in case it's buggy.