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How Apple could overload the M1 iPad Pro at WWDC



iPad Pro M1 2021

M1 iPad Pro looks ready to take a more advanced operating system: will WWDC activate some of the power?

Scott Stein / CNET

This story is part of WWDC 2021

. All the latest coverage from Apple’s annual developer conference.

What has an M1 chip and is not a Mac? Apples latest iPad pros. Apple’s latest high-end tablets are extremely fast, have improved screens and cameras and higher speed Thunderbolt throughput. And while some iPads have A-Series chips, and others have Mac-like M1s, one thing’s still the same: iPadOS. But that operating system can change from time to time next week’s WWDC.

Apple can never merge iOS and MacOS. But that does not mean the iPad and Mac worlds does not converge already. Division a regular M1 chip is just one of their similarities: Apple’s Mac and iOS environments have merged with shared apps, cross-device and app continuity sharing, and literal extension features such as Side trolley, which turns an iPad into a different Mac screen.

Apple tends to see in advance where the next version of the operating system is heading at the annual WWDC Developer Conference. This year it has only WWDC online happens just a few weeks after the launch of the latest iPad pros. There are looming opportunities for what a new iPadOS can unlock in the latest iPads. These updates can also be crucial to whether you should consider buying one or not.

Let’s say Apple does not create a “Mac mode” in the iPad Pro, although I would like that to happen. There are other clear ways the new iPad pro can (and should) be massively improved in the next version of iPadOS.

kensington-studiodock-ipadpro-1

The 2020 iPad Pro works with screens in a similar way to the 2021 iPad Pro, but that should change. (View here: 2020 iPad Pro in Kensington StudioDock, connected to monitor)

Scott Stein / CNET

Real screen support for connections on several screens

IPad Pro’s current screen support is limited to apps that choose to support it for other screen features. Guess what? Almost no one does. If not, plugging in a monitor only ends up mirroring the iPadOS in a version that is the pillar box of the aspect ratio of the iPad screen.

The iPad Pro will allow a monitor to create a new monitor with apps that can launch different multi-app interfaces than the iPad (aka the way monitors work on PCs or Macs). Another screen should literally be about expanding your workspace, and yet the iPad Pro currently allows almost none of this.

I work with a monitor that is connected to the MacBook Air almost all the time. On an iPad Pro, this may mean the type of multitasking that was not possible before. I could easily zoom and edit a document, take notes, write and watch a livestream and … well, you get the picture. The M1 chip and extra RAM should handle this easily: Again, Macs do.

Renew iPadOS multitasking experience

While we’re at it, let’s open up how apps can appear on the iPad, period. Apps are extremely limited to certain split-screen modes, or narrow floating app windows that can be pulled up on open apps. Not all apps are compatible with Apple’s iPadOS split-screen features, either. Meanwhile, iPadOS does not even have all the new widgets that can be added to the iOS home screen on current iPhones.

Yes, I want apps to be able to be posted online, with more than two at a time. I want widgets to be placed anywhere if I want them there. With a monitor, I want to drag apps to other free spaces in my workplace and rearrange things on the go, as I do on Macs. I take the improvements Apple can provide, but things need to change from the current structure: iPadOS feels far too limiting right now for the M1’s capabilities.






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Get more pro-Mac apps on iPad

Apple enabled iOS apps to run on Mac last year. This year, the opposite will happen: let all Mac apps switch to iPadOS on the M1 iPad Pros. Apps may need to be converted or touch-optimized, but Apple is already doing an excellent job keyboard, support for trackpad and mouse on iPadOS. I do not see any reasons why Mac apps should not run on iPads running the same processor. Ideally, these apps would also be cross-buy if you already own them on a Mac.

The iPad Pro is considered a professional computer, but it does not even have Apple’s own Logic or Final Cut Pro. They should at least be a part of the M1 iPad Pro experience. I expect Apple to announce many more pro apps, and support for them, at WWDC.

This also extends to coding. Apple’s XCode environment, used to create Mac, iOS, iPadOS, WatchOS, and TVOS apps, is Mac only. The moment they move to the iPad Pro is the moment the iPad Pro can truly be considered a pro alternative to the Mac.

We’ll find out soon

Apple’s virtual WWDC launches June 7. We find out how much the operating system of the iPad Pro changes then. But I expect this year to be a great opportunity for the M1 iPad Pro. Right now, the tablet feels like a device still searching for its full unlocked potential.


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