iPad users will soon receive a frequently-requested multitasking feature with the next major iOS update.
A recent report published today by 9to5Mac suggests that iOS 8, the upcoming version of Apple's mobile operating system, will feature the ability to run two apps side-by-side on iPad devices. The new functionality would allow users to run programs like web browsers and word processors at the same time on the left and right side of the tablet.
Split-screen multitasking is expected to match up with rival tablet manufacturers running Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system, which already allows users to "snap" apps to each end of the screen. The new functionality may also lead to those split-screen apps interacting with each other. The new iOS update will also reportedly implement XPC support, which gives the ability for developers to code interactions and exchange information between two apps.
Apple's slow adaptation of multitasking may be due to practicality issues of running side-by-side apps on iPad devices. While Microsoft tablets such as the Surface feature a wider screen that gives more real estate to run two apps at once, the thinner 4:3 aspect ratio of the iPad could create readability problems when using split screen, especially on iPad Mini devices. On the regular iPad devices, the feature would likely only work when users hold the device sideways in landscape mode. The new feature could have limitations on older iPads as both the apps and the tablets themselves are designed to run only one app at a time.
If split screen support requires new programming, the feature may not be available in many apps when Apple releases iOS 8. Each individual iPad app may need an update to support multitasking, which will likely create a limited number of apps supporting the feature at launch. Some apps may be unusable in split screen mode, and any of those apps sparsely updated by its developers may never receive multitasking functionality.
Apple will likely reveal the feature as well as other new features in iOS 8 to the public during its annual Worldwide Developers Conference next month.