Recent rumors have suggested that Apple may be aiming to match Microsoft's Surface by introducing a split-screen multitasking mode for iPads. The company's WWDC keynote — complete with a lengthy preview of iOS 8 — came and went with no mention of this feature. But developer Steve Troughton-Smith has discovered code in iOS 8 that allows two apps to run side by side, suggesting that Apple has at least been working on the idea, even if it's not ready to showcase the results just yet.
From the sounds of it, Apple has looked at an approach resembling Microsoft's "snap" functionality that would enable apps to be resized on the screen according to preference. Troughton-Smith says the code allows apps to take up half of the screen, a single quarter, or three quarters. So in theory you'd be able to have a Twitter app take up a small section of the iPad's display, with Netflix, Safari, or another app receiving the majority of screen real estate.
So… just in case there was any doubt left… iOS 8’s SpringBoard has code to run two apps side-by-side. 1/4 size, 1/2 size, or 3/4 size— Steve T-S (@stroughtonsmith) June 9, 2014
The split-screen feature may not be ready, but there's also the possibility that Apple is simply waiting until an iPad unveiling this fall to reveal it. The company has often kept some pending iOS features secret only to spill the full details about them during hardware events. This new multitasking approach could fall under that tent and be used as a selling point for the next-generation iPad Air. But for now all we have to work with are rumors and code, so split-screen functionality is by no means guaranteed. The simplicity of iOS has been critical to its success, and while plenty of mockups are out there, if Apple can't find an intuitive way to make all this work, the plan could go nowhere.