At its yearly developer conference, WWDC, today, Apple announced a new operating system for its tablets. The iPadOS is the company’s fifth operating system (OS), presenting a sort of middle-ground between iOS (iPhone’s phone operating system) and the desktop-based MacOS.
The iPads have so far been ‘mobile first’ devices, meaning they work more like smartphones than computers. However, the aim has always been to make them laptop replacements, and a mobile-first nature was a major disadvantage at that.
For instance, Microsoft’s Surface tablets, arguably Apple’s biggest competition in this segment (in terms of features), runs desktop-based software effortlessly. And that’s because the Surface tablets also run on desktop-class processors (from Intel), whereas Apple’s iPads run on the company’s mobile chipsets.
The difference, essentially comes down to processor architecture. While Intel’s processors follow the legacy X86-64 architecture, Apple’s chipsets are based on ARM architectures, meant primarily for mobile. As a result, the company has always had to settle for running mobile apps, adapted to the iPad’s bigger screens.
With the iPadOS, Apple is at least trying to normalise this issue. For example, the company says iPadOS will allow Safari (Apple’s web browser) to run desktop versions of websites which are adapted to its screens. In addition, the home screen has been redesigned to “take advantage of the iPad’s bigger screen", allowing both app icons and widgets. The OS even has native support for memory cards and USB drives, something that many creative professional (the iPad’s primary market) will appreciate.
However, Apple is still maintaining the mobile nature of the device here, and trying to take advantage of its touchscreen capabilities. It has a slide-over feature that lets you put apps on top of each other and use them simultaneously, there’s “better" support for the Apple Pencil and so on.
Essentially, what the iPadOS does is it brings Apple’s tablets dangerously close to traditional laptops, while augmenting them with mobile features. Given the fact that the company has always led the tablet market, this could be the move Apple needed to make to attract new buyers.
According to reports, while Apple has led the tablet market so far, the company has seen slowdown in sales, because of a decline in the overall market. However, Microsoft’s Surface tablets may be acclaimed critically, but the company hasn’t been able to take any significant portion of the market. A Q1 2019 report by Strategy Analytics put Apple on top with 27% market share globally, while Microsoft didn’t even feature in the top five. This shows that consumers still see tablets as mobile devices.
While iPadOS doesn’t necessarily make the iPad a full desktop replacement, this might be what Apple needs to convince buyers who have so far been on the fence. It could also help the company take customers away from competitors like Samsung, Huawei and more, who are hamstrung by Android’s mobile-only nature.