I don’t often speculate about upcoming Apple announcements but I’m going to make an exception with this post. And it’s nothing complicated, just putting a few pieces together. Most of it is probably pretty obvious to folks who have been paying attention Apple news over recent months. Before I continue, for anyone not familiar with my blog, I’m a full-time, very satisfied iPad Pro user. I’m not someone who struggles with the iPad, not someone who longs for macOS on the iPad. For me, iPadOS sings and my interest is in seeing what Apple does to refine the iPad experience rather than any hope of a macOS to iPad face-plant, er, transplant.
May 29, 2023. We’re a week past the release of Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro for the iPad. Apple first announced the release on May 9th and it took everyone by surprise. It’s always fun when they can still surprise everyone! Boom. And, interesting that such a significant announcement is done by a press release a month before WWDC. For the most part the reviews have been very positive. The two most repeated critiques of FCP for iPad: No round tripping to and from the Mac and no editing off of external hard drives. But given this is the initial release, it seems reasonable to expect that these two features will be added before long.
We’re one week away from WWDC 2023. The rumors of a VR/AR headset have been buzzing for the past year. In recent months it’s been rumored that the headset would be running many of Apple’s apps in an iPad-like form. Many assume the headset is now a certainty that will be announced at WWDC 2023.
While much of the excitement about WWDC 2023 has centered on speculation about the headset, it’s OS and features, I’m curious about the connection that might exist between the headset and the iPad or, more specifically, the potential commonality between the two operating systems. Given the rumor that the headset will, essentially, be running iPad apps, this seems a relevant question to consider. Given the need for energy efficiency, it would make sense that the OS running the headset would be more like iOS or iPadOS than macOS. If true, well, then there is now a new category of hardware that runs on the iOS family.
Another rumor, discussed far less, is a larger iPad Pro, perhaps 15 or 16″. With the release of FCP and Logic Pro for iPad, a larger iPad Pro would make a lot of sense. And of course with these new pro apps, it also starts to seem inevitable that Xcode for the iPad will be released. We’ve seen some big improvements to Swift Playgrounds in the past couple years but still no Xcode.
Last year we saw quite a few improvements to iPadOS and the stock iPad apps. Much of this was overshadowed by a few prominent pundits that disliked the implementation of Stage Manager. I’m not going to dwell on that other than to say that the negativity around the feature is greatly overblown. Though not what some wanted, many of us use it and actually like it. It’s certainly made my iPad experience much better, allowing me to use 3-4 apps at once. It’s been a real and measurable productivity boost for the work I do. At the very least, it is Apple’s first step towards an improved multitasking experience on the iPad.
But looking at the improvements brought to iPadOS over the past 2 to 3 years, we have an OS that is has steadily matured. The Files app has had many previously missing features added and is now fully functional, nearly on par with the Mac Finder. Stock apps like Notes, Mail, Safari, Reminders have all seen significant improvements.
Putting the puzzle pieces together
If the rumors are true it would seem that Apple has also been developing the headset and its OS for awhile. For several years they’ve been publicly promoting Augmented Reality and LiDAR with new hardware and software features on the iPhone and iPad. Tim Cook has been outspoken of his support of AR during that time.
In a week Apple will begin to provide more details about where this journey is going and how they expect these devices to work together. Given previous years development of the larger Apple ecosystem, it seems likely that not much has been left to chance. Apple has a well thought out plan that it’s been following. It would seem a given that the time and energy put into the development of LiDAR and AR in iOS and iPadOS has been a part of the process of developing the OS and hardware for the headset.
Of particular interest to me: how will the features and technology put into the headset OS overlap or come back to iPadOS?
My expectations and hopes for the iPad in 2023 and 2024 is that Apple will continue to fill out and refine the OS and the default apps. I think most of this list is just an obvious continuation of what we’ve already seen.
What I’m hoping or expecting to see in terms of iPadOS and apps:
- Files: More customizable tool bar, more complete indexing of file contents for better search results, more column options in list view
- Improved or added support for smart lists, saved searches in apps like Files, Mail, Notes, Reminders, Contacts
- Improved Safari bringing it ever closer to the full desktop experience
- Improvements for Stage Manager and multitasking
- Improvements to virtual memory and background tasks for apps like Final Cut Pro
- While Pages, Numbers and Keynote are all excellent apps, there’s more to do to bring them fully in-line with the Mac apps
- As the new app in the Apple ecosystem, Freeform could use some big improvements. This app should really shine on the iPad.
- FCP: To start I’d expect to have the above mentioned missing features addressed: round tripping to and from the Mac, editing from external storage
- Xcode. I’d guess that in 2023 Swift Playgrounds will again be improved but that we’ll also see Xcode for iPad. First to what will be described as Xcode lite and then to something closer to the full version.
- Improved Lock Screen that will bring last year’s iPhone Lock Screen improvements to the iPad
- Improved widgets, perhaps with new options for interaction
An iPad Pro 15 or 16″. Along with this I’d hope/expect to see other iPad accessories as Apple broadens the iPad platform. A new version of the Magic Keyboard. The iPad Pro needs better battery life, I’m hoping we’ll see this in the form of a new Magic Keyboard with an integrated battery that can charge the iPad. I imagine the Brydge form factor but with more ports. I can imagine this combination being the iPad Studio. Larger iPad, FaceTime camera moved to the long side, M3, detachable Magic Keyboard that boosts the iPad to 20 hours of battery life. I’d expect it to have the same battery life as a MacBook Pro but weighing in a bit more as it would be 2 batteries. Also, maybe a redesigned Magic Keyboard for the current line of 13″ iPad Pro and a new M3 13″ iPad Pro.
In short I expect that Apple will double down on its commitment to the iPad platform: hardware, iPadOS, Pro apps and accessories.
Last, a few words on the larger Apple Ecosystem and the new headset as the new TV
- iCloud Pro?
- More sharing, collaboration and development of the iCloud and app ecosystem into a more complete social network.
- Whatever is happening with the headset I’d expect Apple to market it as the new TV. Talking to family members that all have iPhones, I’ve recently become more aware of their media consumption habits. It’s more individualistic than I realized. It occurs to me that the long-term vision of the headset might simply be the new TV: Movies, shows, sports and as a general purpose computer. I’d speculate that Apple hopes that in 5 years homes with iPhone users will have 1 or more headsets that have replaced flatscreen tvs.