The developer who earlier this week uncovered code within iOS 8 that pointed to a split-screen mode posted demonstrations of the feature in action.
On Wednesday, Steven Troughton-Smith, the founder and CEO of mobile app developer High Caffeine Content, outlined the iOS split-screen in a slideshow and a video. He used Apple's iOS Simulator, which runs on a Mac and simulates how iPhone and iPad apps-in-progress will look and run on the actual devices, to create the demos.
Apple provides the simulator with the Xcode development environment and iOS SDK (software development kit).
The slideshow, which Troughton-Smith first referenced on Twitter, showed the four split-screen pane sizes he had uncovered earlier: full-screen, two-thirds, one-half and one-third the width of an iPad display when the device was held in landscape mode.
Those options would let two apps appear on the iPad simultaneously, the display split between two apps of equal width (50-50), or when the first app occupied one-third of the screen and the second two-thirds (33/66). The 24-second video, which Troughton-Smith also tweeted, then added to YouTube, demonstrated how a two-finger swiping gesture would be used to resize the panes.
Talk first surfaced about a possible split-screen addition to iOS 8 last month when 9to5Mac.com claimed the new operating system would offer the productivity-enhancing feature. If accurate, said analysts, it implied Apple would push the iPad to become more palatable to business users.
Pundits and other observers quickly drew comparisons to Microsoft's Windows 8.1, which already offers multi-app, split-screen views in its "Modern," nee "Metro," UI.
Windows 8.1 allows two-app views of 50-50, 30/70 and 40/60, with additional three-app (33/33/33) and four-app (25/25/25/25) options on sufficiently-high-resolution displays. Microsoft has made the feature a selling point for its oft-maligned OS and criticized the iPad for lacking something similar in its television ads for the Surface tablet line.
Apple did not mention an iOS split-screen during its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) keynote last week, leaving everyone to speculate whether it had been dumped, or would be added later to iOS 8.
Troughton-Smith assumed the latter. "This amount of code throughout the OS doesn't make it to production by accident," he said on Twitter. "I imagine they're saving it for the iPad event." He said that the split-screen would presumably work on the current iPad Air and its 9.7-in. screen.
Apple is expected to launch new iPhone and iPad models this fall. The split-screen mode would be a smart complement to an iPad with a larger screen; talk has clustered around one of 12-in., the same size as Microsoft's Surface Pro 3, which goes on sale next week.
"Split-screen gives you something to do with all that space of a larger iPad," said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, in a May interview. "So it fits in with the rumored larger commercial device."
Other analysts agreed. "It's sort of a no-brainer," said Ezra Gottheil of Technology Business Research. "Two apps [on the screen at the same time] do not really complicate the simplicity of the iPad, and people have grown up with the idea of multiple windows."
In 2013, Apple introduced its newest iPads, including the iPad Air, on Oct. 22, six weeks after the debut of two new iPhones and the launch of iOS 7. On the day of the iPad event Apple bumped up its mobile operating system to version 7.0.3, fixing a few bugs and adding features such as the iCloud Keychain and a password generator.
Troughton-Smith's comment about "saving" split-screen for another iPad unveiling and an accompanying iOS 8 update was based on those past moves.
If Apple followed the same timeline as last year, it would roll out iOS 8 and new iPhones on Tuesday, Sept. 9, then follow that with an iPad-centric presentation on Oct. 21.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is [email protected].
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