Rumors of a large-screened "iPad Pro" have been swirling for months now, and now we're getting more details about the future of the iPad from one of the best Apple sources out there. According to 9to5Mac's Mark Gurman, Apple should be ready to release a 12-inch iPad later this year, probably around the fall timeframe when it has typically refreshed iPads in recent years. Gurman wasn't specific about timing, though, and earlier reports this year indicated that Apple wouldn't even start manufacturing on the device until September — meaning it could be hard to find if Apple does in fact introduce at its annual iPad event.
Apple's also finally getting around to some long-rumored software changes to go a long with those larger screens, too — Gurman's report indicates that Apple is preparing to introduce a split-screen mode that'll let users run multiple apps side by side. That feature could be shown off as early as WWDC, just a few weeks from now — though the report's sources caution that the feature could get pulled ahead of the keynote.
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While this feature is a natural for the larger iPad Apple is presumably making, it seems it'll also be brought to the iPad Air as well. Apple was reportedly planning to show it off at last year's WWDC and include it in the iPad Air, but the company decided it wasn't ready in the lead-up to the show. It was then put on the back burner as Apple's software team finished up work on the Apple Watch software as well as iOS 8 for the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. A rough version of this feature was found to be hidden in a beta of iOS 8 last year, something that supports the notion Apple was hoping to have it ready for WWDC last year.
As for how the split-screen feature will work, it sounds like apps will be able to take up a third, half, or two-thirds of the display, depending on what modes the app supports. You'll also have the option to have a single app have multiple instances displayed — so you could have two Safari tabs side by side, for example.
Another software feature in the works (that won't be ready for WWDC) is multi-user support, something iPad owners have long asked for. With a larger-screened iPad coming that could be more of a laptop replacement than anything Apple has released thus far, enabling multiple family members to use the same device is a move that makes a lot of sense. And the combo of a larger iPad and these new software changes could make the iPad more of a competitor to Microsoft's Surface devices than ever before. That's not even to mention how they might help turn around the slowing growth Apple has seen in its iPad business over the last year. We'll find out more at WWDC soon.
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