Apple’s Stage Manager fluffs lines, extends rehearsal

1 week ago

Apple plans to introduce iPadOS 16 near the introduction of macOS Ventura to make time to get Stage Manager right. It also makes more sense to update the iPad with the Mac.

Apple, iPad, iPad Pro, WWDC, Universal Control, Mac, macOS, iPadOS

Arriving this fall in iPadOS 16, Stage Manager aims to reinvent the iPad interface, bringing the tablet closer to the Mac and making for a more unified and multitasking-friendly environment. But release of this year's upgrade has apparently been delayed because Stage Manager isn’t ready for the spotlight yet, a Bloomberg report claims.

Truth be told, it makes more sense this way.

Every drama needs a good rehearsal

That’s a disappointment for iPad and Mac users who look forward to using the new feature. But, as any thespian knows, any kind of on-stage activity needs to be properly rehearsed, and it seems the feature needs more work. As a result, the company plans on introducing the next version of iPadOS in October, one month after iOS 16 and close or along with the introduction of macOS Ventura.

Weaknesses identified during beta testing/rehearsal include:

  • Beta testers have found the interface a little confusing.
  • There are incompatibilities between how Stage Manager works on different iPads.
  • Testing has revealed some flaws/bugs in the code as it is so far.

I’m happy for Apple to take time to get things right, but I also think it makes more sense for iPad OS to be released in step with macOS, than with the iPhone OS.

iPad is more Mac than iPhone

Any Mac/iPad user who has worked with Universal Control understands that Apple is building the two platforms to complement each other while retaining the unique advantages of each.

The iPad has become an ultra-portable solution Mac owners can use to get things done, one that can handle most of the tasks people once used a Mac or PC to tackle. It supports real productivity apps, and (from the iPad Air and above) uses the same processor as Apple Silicon Macs.

The iPad is no longer a giant iPhone, as netbook makers once argued before iPads put them out of business. The iPad is a full-fledged PC replacement, at least, some of the time. It’s a tool that can be used in situations, such as in airplane cockpits, among cabin crew, or on the factory floor, that laptops just aren’t ideal for.

In other words, while the move to release the OS on a different schedule than iOS may seem dramatic because it feels like a change, it feels like a change that is good to make. Not only does it enable Apple to ensure both Mac and iPad operating systems (hopefully) work well together, but it may fit Apple’s future hardware introduction schedule better.

To be post PC it needs more Mac than phone

While the A-series entry-level iPad was introduced with the iPhone 13, the M1 iPad Air was announced alongside the Mac Studio. I’m not party to the sales data, but I can’t really recommend an entry-level iPad above an M-series iPad Air, which I guess is why Apple plans some big changes  for the 10th edition entry-level iPad. It’s also relevant to note that Stage Manager, the feature Apple is allegedly delaying the release of iPad OS 16 for, only works on iPads equipped with M-series chips, which, given the marquee status of the feature, speaks volumes about the direction of travel for the range.

So today’s “Apple-delays-something” story is not really a story about delays at all. Instead, it reflects Apple’s ambition to evolve its tablet platform in order to define the post-PC future. That post-PC future is the vision Apple has always discussed, been mocked for discussing, and will eventually create. What, fundamentally, is a computer? What is its interface? And while we can all see the computers we’ve used for the last 50 years in the rear view mirror, what shape will these things be once we turn the future corner?

Getting those answers right means a great deal more than slavish affection for an unspecified shipping date, after all.

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Jonny is a freelance writer who has been writing (mainly about Apple and technology) since 1999.

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