The iPad was introduced as a device that lived between the smartphone and the PC, but it was always genetically much similar to the former. Starting from day one, it has launched a thousand keyboard-case combinations. However Apple has continued to maintain its focus as a pure slate device even as PC-based competitors -- perhaps frustrated at their lack of progress in such a categorization -- have rushed to add keyboards to tablets or make them but a component of a 2-in-1 laptop that often offers a larger display.
At its worldwide developer conference this week, though, Apple showed off a few features in its forthcoming iOS 9 designed just for the iPad. These should help make it a more productive than ever. They include:
Keyboard shortcut recognition. While Apple doesn't offer its own keyboard accessory for the iPad, there are many good alternatives available. iOS 9 will offer a way to easily discover key combination shortcuts like those common in Windows and Mac apps.
Virtual trackpad. Selecting long blocks of text on the iPad will get easier in iOS 9. Sliding two fingers while the keyboard is active will allow you to more quickly and precisely move the text cursor long distances. The keyboard has also been beefed up with a few tools.
Multitasking. iOS 9 provides a more visual interface for switching among apps as well as a feature that mimics "Alt-Tabbing" in Windows to switch among them. It will allow one app to partially overlap another for a while or the two can share the screen with a control separating how much screen area which one gets. You can even drag objects between the two apps. And for watching things like Apple keynotes while tending to other apps, it will support a picture-in-picture effect.
Many of these features have been implemented one way or another previously for other devices. Windows 8, for example, made much of its ability to have two apps share the screen and to easily displace one while leaving the other intact. Still, when combined with the iPad's huge library of touch-optimized apps and developer support, it could add up for big things for the tablet's sliding sales. Indeed, the multi-app capability points strongly to Apple introducing its largest iPad ever later this year,
On the other hand, such a device will need to compete with Apple's thinnest and lightest MacBook ever, the 12" model available in silver, space gray and gold that Apple notes was inspired by the iPad and takes up just a bit more space than it. Come the fall, it will be the iPad's salvo in Apple's ongoing friendly family feud.