Facing slowing growth for the first time since the iPad’s 2010 debut, Apple is working on several significant software and hardware updates to reinvigorate the tablet over the next year. Apple is developing a dual-app viewing mode, 12-inch iPads codenamed “J98″ and “J99,” as well as support for multi-user logins, according to sources briefed on the plans. First planned for debut last year, the split-screen applications feature for the iPad could be introduced as soon as June at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference, while multi-user login support and the 12-inch iPads will apparently arrive later…
Apple had originally intended to debut side-by-side app support with iOS 8 on the iPad Air in 2014, matching the cornerstone feature of Microsoft’s Surface and Surface Pro tablets. In the lead up to WWDC 2014, the feature was deemed too unpolished for public consumption and pulled from iOS 8.0, with tentative plans to appear in iOS 8.1. However, Apple reprioritized its software engineering resources to finish up the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and Apple Watch, opting to cut the split-screen app feature for the time being, and reassign the majority of the engineers who were working on it.
Sources now say that Apple plans to show off the side-by-side feature for iOS 9 using currently available iPad models. The latest plans suggest that the split-screen mode will support 1/2, 1/3, and 2/3 views depending on the apps. When split, the screen can either display two different apps side-by-side, or multiple views of the same app. This would enable iPad users to see two separate Safari tabs, or compare a pair of Pages documents at the same time. Sources are quick to warn, however, that the feature could still be pulled before next month’s conference, as additional polish would be needed to bring it to the same level as other features that will be making their way into the first iOS 9 beta next month.
While Apple has tested the feature with plans to release it for current iPads, we are told that the feature was actually developed with a larger, 12-inch iPad in mind, so it could potentially be held back for a debut with the new hardware. Sources have confirmed that Apple is testing jumbo-sized iPads internally codenamed “J98″ and “J99,” which are apparently larger versions of the Wi-Fi-only and Wi-Fi + Cellular iPad Air 2, save for additional speaker holes. Dubbed “iPad Pro” in prior reports, the larger device’s launch date is yet to be locked down, as the tablet is still waiting for its software to be finished up, and new hardware components to be readily available.
While current “iPad Pro” prototypes are said to run a version of iOS that looks like a larger variant of the iPad mini and iPad Air version, Apple’s goal is to further tweak iOS for the bigger iPad so users can better leverage the additional screen real estate. Besides split-screen apps, Apple is considering redesigning core apps and features, including Siri and Notification Center, to be better presented on the larger display. This new iPad is also rumored to have additional keyboard and USB support, and basic manufacturing schematics for the device leaked late last year.
Another significant iPad feature in the pipeline is support for multiple users, according to sources. This feature will allow several users to share an iPad, but have access solely to their own apps, documents, and media, like on a Mac. As of earlier this year, Apple had planned to ship multiple user support in iOS 9, but sources now indicate that the feature has been pushed back from its planned WWDC Keynote debut and is unlikely to be ready for iOS 9.0 this fall. However, the feature is still in simultaneous development with iOS 9 as Apple executives believe it to be critical to the enterprise and education sectors. Consequently, it could be released later this year as a .1 or .2 upgrade to iOS 9, alongside the “iPad Pro,” or next year.