When I published my Beyond the Tablet story a few weeks ago, I was optimistic we’d get a handful of iPad-related features and optimizations at WWDC. I did not, however, foresee an entire OS designed specifically around iPad. And the more I think about it, the more I see iPadOS as a sign of Apple’s willingness to break free from old assumptions and let the iPad be what it’s best at: a portable computer inspired by the Mac, but based on iOS.
I’m back home after a fantastic week at WWDC, and I’m now in the process of sifting through the surprising amount of new software features Apple unveiled in San Jose. It’s going to take me a while to digest all that’s new in iOS 13 and Shortcuts2; of course, you should expect my iOS/iPadOS 13 review in the fall, and we will share more hands-on articles and editorials on MacStories and Club MacStories throughout the summer. For now though, after using the iPadOS beta on my 12.9″ iPad Pro for a few days, I’d like to share some initial considerations on iPadOS and what it means for the future of the platform.
Since the iPad launched almost 10 years ago, its iOS foundation has been a double-edged sword: on one hand, building iPad on top of iOS gave Apple a head start in terms of performance, app ecosystem, and security that other tablets couldn’t match; on the other, an already-solid iOS foundation may have been the excuse to not aggressively pursue more advanced functionalities.
Apple has only itself to blame if certain segments of the tech press have been calling the iPad “just a big iPod touch” for years, even though it clearly wasn’t.
iPadOS suggests that the company has identified a new path for the iPad as a third platform that combines well-trodden ideas from macOS with the intuitive, nimble nature of iOS. To a certain extent, this was true of iPad before, particularly since the days of iOS 11, but calling it iPadOS shows a renewed commitment that may provide the necessary impetus for more consistent updates over the next few years.
Ultimately, a new name on its own doesn’t prove that Apple is more serious about a platform than before, which is why we should focus on the actual features that will launch with iPadOS later this year. And from what I’ve seen and discussed so far, it looks like Apple is ready to begin the iPad’s next decade with a promising new strategy: inspired by tradition, but still uniquely iPad.