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Apple shows off iPad split-screen multitasking in iOS 9 preview

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Ever since Microsoft first showed off multi-window support in the tablet mode for Windows 8, it's been expected that Apple would eventually follow suit with a true multitasking mode of its own. Now, Apple is finally showing off this new, enhanced multitasking mode for the first time as part of its iOS 9 preview at WWDC 2015. The iPad multitasking experience is now built around three things: SlideOver, Split View, and picture-in-picture. From a quick look at these during a demo during the WWDC keynote, it's pretty obvious that Apple took a lot of inspiration from how Windows tablet and touchscreen devices work in multitasking mode.

For starters, there's a new task switcher you can see when double-tapping the home button — from there, you can pick an app that you can swipe from the right to access any time you want an app to the side of the screen in and quickly access it by swiping from the right in a feature called SlideOver. That lets you slide in from the side of the screen to bring in another app, and if you then pull down from the top, you can swipe through other apps that support the feature. In an example Craig Federighi showed off, he had Safari taking up about 70 percent of the screen, with a variety of other apps on the right side of the screen, including Messages, Notes, and Calendar.

A long-overdue feature finally arrives

There's also a more traditional Split View mode that lets you have two apps open and active on your screen simultaneously. Both apps remain fully active in their own dedicated space — you can drag and drop between apps, and four-finger swipes can be used to switch apps in each zone. There's even a picture-in-picture mode that lets you put a small video player over the top of whatever you're looking at — in this case, it was a demo for an ESPN viewer.

Unfortunately, the big Split View simultaneous app mode is only going to work on the iPad Air 2 — SlideOver and picture-in-picture will be available on the iPad Air (from late 2013) and newer as well as all models of the iPad mini.

It was reported last year that Apple was going to include split-screen multitasking in iOS 8 — but WWDC 2014 came and went, as did the launch of iOS 8 in the fall, and the feature never materialized beyond a rough, hacky sort of simulation that was discovered hidden in the OS. But recent rumors claimed Apple would show off the new feature today, and that has indeed come to pass.


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