Multitasking on my iPad Air is rubbish. Stage Manager, which Apple announced during last night's WWDC 2022 keynote, means that on the best iPads it won't be.
Stage Manager will arrive in iPadOS 16 later this year, and it brings a more familiar multitasking interface – or at least, it does if you have an M1-powered iPad such as the 2021 iPad Pro. The feature is reserved for M-powered iPads, so unfortunately my current iPad won't get it. I suspect it's because the feature is also designed to drive external monitors, because otherwise my iPad is more than powerful enough.
I think Stage Manager does two things. First, it makes running multiple apps on iPad much better and much more intuitive. And secondly, it provides a whopping great hint about Apple's next frontier: AR and VR.
Why Stage Manager matters
What Stage Manager does is replace the current iPad multitasking, with its confusing combination of split screen and slide over, with something more Mac-like – and it's coming to the Mac too, so there'll be zero friction switching between the two devices. In iPadOS 16 you'll be able to have resizable, overlapping windows (with a separate set on an external display if you have one), and while you won't be able to have as many open apps as you would on a laptop you can organise your apps into groups for easy switching between them.
I like this approach because it makes the iPad more laptop-like without trying to be a laptop; it's still simpler, more touchable and less tethered to a keyboard than a full-on macOS would be. And when you combine its interface, whose sidebar of apps really reminds me of a head-up display, with many of the other features Apple described last night, a picture of something else starts to emerge.
If you take Stage Manager's swipeable, scalable interface and add in the improved Live Text, dictation, sharing and collaborative features Apple also described, you can start to see what the long-rumoured Apple AR/VR headset is likely to do. Live Text to look at things and bring up contextual features such as calling a number or getting AR directions in Maps; composing and correcting messages with your voice; using a virtual shared whiteboard that syncs over iCloud... we already know that the AR/VR headset will have similar power to the current M-powered MacBook Pro. Now it looks like when the new Apple iOSes drop later this year, it's going to have some of the same interface features too.