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Productivity-users’ wish list passed over again with iOS 8

Sections: Features, iPhone OS, SDK and hacks, iPhone/iPod touch/iPad, Opinions and Editorials, Originals

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At the Worldwide Developers’ Conference Monday, Apple unveiled at least the broad strokes of what’s coming in iOS 8 this fall, and I am more than a bit disappointed that not a whisper was mentioned about a side-by-side apps multitasking feature to answer the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 that’s been rumored over the past couple of weeks.

There looks to be lots of good content in iOS 8, and I really appreciate Apple’s having made it support the A5 iPad 2 and iPhone 4s, although I suppose they had little choice but to do so, considering they’re still selling new essentially iPad 2 spec original iPad minis. It’s still an imponderable as to how seriously performance on these older machines will be compromised by optimization for the current A7 and anticipated A8 64-bit SoCs in the software.

iOS 8

There was so much “smoke” emitting from the rumor mills about Apple finally getting around to adding side by side simultaneous two-app viewing in iOS 8 for there not to be at least some fire, but evidently any intelligence about multiwindowing was more likely a smokescreen, at least for this time.

To be fair, some of the rumor speculators cautioned that the split screen feature would not be ready for a preview demo at the WWDC, and if/when it ever is, it may only be supported by the full-sized iPad Air, but not by the iPad mini or iPhone, which would be a bittersweet outcome for small form factor mobile computing aficionados.

For example, blogger and Apple pundit Brian X. Chen tweeted: “I’ve been told that the split-screen feature for iOS 8 isn’t ready yet and won’t be shown at WWDC. Still a work in progress.”

Meanwhile, Apple says iOS 8 is the biggest release since the launch of the App Store. We’ll have to wait and see, but I’m skeptical. Apple also says iOS 8 delivers a “simpler, faster and more intuitive user experience.” Okaaaayy.

I was hoping for more of a production-oriented user experience. I appreciate that the iPad changed the world with a simpler, faster, more intuitive dynamic, but its eroding market share indicates that lots of potential customers are at least perceiving enough simpler, faster, more intuitive in other, cheaper tablet hardware at cheaper prices on Android or Windows platforms.

I’m certainly no marketing genius (if I was, I’d be a lot richer). But notwithstanding Apple’s claim that it currently has 95% of the enterprise tablet market—which I assume is backed up by some sort of actuarial research—it seems to me that a wise strategy might be to address some of the iPad’s deficiencies as a production platform that frustrate those of us who do serious work on the platform and would do more if the shortcomings were addressed. That doesn’t appear to have happened with iOS 8. There’s interesting new stuff in version 8, but it appears to be mostly “consumer” user oriented.

For example iCloud Photo Library, which allows users to share photos and videos more easily across your devices, new Messages features that facilitate sharing voice, video and photos with just a swipe, and Family Sharing, another way to share purchases, photos and calendars within the same household, are all clearly targeting social networking aficionados. The new Health app, while commendably useful for some folks, I guess, brings nothing to the productivity table.

iOS 8

Predictive typing for Apple’s QuickType keyboard sounds a bit more promising, at least if you have a QuickType keyboard, which I don’t.

iCloud Drive potentially could turn out to be my favorite iOS 8 feature if my impression from Apple’s description that it sounds something like DropBox—which I love—proves accurate. Apple says that with iCloud Drive, documents of any type can be safely stored, Spotlight searchable, accessed and edited across your devices; you can edit a document on one device and the most up-to-date version will be available across all your devices, whether they’re iOS, Mac, Windows PC or on icloud.com, providing seamless access and the ability to work on the same file across multiple apps, which sounds very much like the way I use DropBox. If it works as well as DropBox, it should be a solid and worthwhile enhancement, although it would have to be really cool to seduce me away from DropBox.

Apple says iOS 8’s extended Spotlight capabilities can search results beyond what’s on your device, including articles from Wikipedia, findings from the news and results from places nearby. Having not been much impressed with Spotlight implementation up to now, I’ll be interested to see how that works in practical terms.

Apple has earmarked some feature additions and enhancements as particularly for enterprise users, such as building on a new IT model for a mobilized workforce by improving the way users are informed of how their devices are configured, managed or restricted; expanded security and management improvements, and what Apple heralds as new “productivity features” such as an expanded level of data protection for key built-in apps, the ability to set your out of office response, see your colleagues’ availability when scheduling a meeting, and support for configurable Thread Notifications in Mail. I don’t doubt that a lot of big enterprise users will find those tweaks helpful, but for me, enhanced productivity would be primarily enhanced by more practical hands-on capability, the top of the list being multiwindowing, some file level access to the directory, and some substantial improvement to some aspects and methods of text editing.

I suppose it’s also possible that Apple is holding back some productivity functionality for release with the rumored larger-screen iPad Pro. Meanwhile, iOS 8, although it doesn’t sound like anything to get up in the night and write home about, would appear to be an incremental improvement on iOS 7, and I’m looking forward to downloading it come fall, although not with bated breath.

Some folks are more enthusiastic.

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