How Multi-Tasking could work on the iPad (mockups)

January, 2010

We are just days before the keynote where it is assumed that Apple will revealing their introduction into the tablet market. Rumors are swirling; will it be called iTablet? iSlate? More importantly, what about the OS? Some kind of custom version of Mac OS X? An OS X-iOS hybrid? Now as some may remember, many were disappointed by what Apple ended up offering as their software solution; an outstretched version of iOS. It was even jokingly (and not so jokingly) dubbed the 'iPod XL' by some. However, most of those feelings of resentment evaporated when the device actually launched, and proved to be a huge success. But that doesn't mean there isn't still room for improvement.

Off-Center

Timthumb

This is how iPad was revealed. By claiming there was room for a brand new product line; a cross between the iPhone and MacBook form factors. And although that's proven to be true as far as form factor goes, it's no where near the truth from an operating-system standpoint. There is still a stretch between what you are capable of accomplishing on a MBP running OS X, and what you are capable of on an iPad. Now, although I could rattle off many areas in which iOS could be improved upon to bring it up to snuff with the desktop-level experience, i'll just focus on one aspect in particular. I'm talking about:

Multi-Tasking

Firstly, when I say multitasking I mean it quite literally; not simply having a dozen apps in the switcher. Desktop-syle multitasking is having multiple 'windows' open with the user being able to perform multiple operations in both programs simultaneously. This is one of the biggest benefits desktop-OS's have over their mobile counterparts, namely iOS.

On OS X, I can be writing this right now while at the same time watching an episode of the Vergecast. I can be using Twitter on one side while browsing the internet on the other. I can be studying anatomy while writing an essay about anatomy. I can be watching a movie while messaging a friend. The examples go on, and quite frankly most of you will already know what i'm talking about if you've ever used a desktop OS in your lives. Apple doesn't need to reserve this capability to a MacBook running OS X anymore.

The iPad

The reality is that iOS exists on a 9.7" screen, and it has for several years now. The main separating factor between iOS on a 3.5" vs a 9.7" (and soon to be 7.85") is the apps. The OS is largely the same as far as functionality goes. Larger apps are great, but a larger OS that does more or less the exact same as its 3.5" counterpart, is missed opportunity.

The Proposal

The implementation already exists in iOS, in part. Apple recently added four finger gestures that can be used to quickly switch between your most recently used apps, without accessing the switcher. Simply sliding your four fingers across the screen will give you a peek at your previously opened app, or instantly switch to it. While transitioning between the two apps, you can see almost half of each. This is great, except for the part that you cannot interact with them both simultaneously. Wouldn't it be nice if you could snap two apps together, and run them side by side?

Solution

This is what two apps in portrait mode but side by side while the iPad is in landscape orientation, would look like (also would work with two landscape apps in portrait orientation). You could easily switch to whatever app you choose on each side using the carousel-like slider (which shows your most recently opened apps, i.e. apps in the switcher). Pressing the list icon in the center would give you access to a bookmarks-like pop-up displaying your saved dual-app configurations/presets. To get back to the fullscreen version of either app, you use the same gesture.

Here's a quick video animation showing what the activation method would look like;

Which two apps would you find most useful in this dual-app mode?

Thanks, and enjoy!