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New Apple iPads will be more functional as enterprise tools than ever before thanks to several upcoming iOS 9 features.
While this week's Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) focused on consumer features, Apple experts say new multitasking features for using multiple apps on iPads will be useful for business.
In one new feature, Slide Over, users can be in one app and drag in a quick view of another app on the right side of the screen. Also, users can use Picture-in-Picture to watch a video while looking at another app. These features will be available on the iPad Air, Air 2, Mini 2 and Mini 3.
The upcoming Split View will allow users to work on two different apps simultaneously, with each taking up half the screen. This feature will only be available on the latest iPad, the Air 2, when iOS 9 becomes available.
With these features, the iPad will catch up to Microsoft's Windows Surface and Samsung's Android tablets for multitasking. The Windows and Samsung tablets already display multiple applications.
It's positive that Cupertino has finally added these features for iPads, but not everyone will be able to enjoy all of them right away, said Bob O'Donnell, analyst and founder of TECHNnalysis Research LLC in Foster City, Calif.
"Only the latest [iPad] can support the coolest multitasking features, so that's disappointing," O'Donnell said. "But, these features will make the iPad function more like a PC…You'll be able to do stuff that frankly has been a little tedious on an iPad to this point."
For example, a business user working with documents and also reading their email will find the updates useful, O'Donnell said.
The Split View feature will also be available for desktops in Apple's new iteration of Mac OS X, El Capitan. This is an attempt by Apple to create a new thread connecting user experiences between desktop and mobile operating systems (OS), said Michael Oh, CTO and founder of TSP LLC, an Apple reseller and IT managed services provider in Boston.
"It's indicative of Apple's very intentional march to add parity of experience," Oh said.
Apple will need to prove it can implement these multitasking views in a natural way, Oh said. When the iPhone was first released it didn't have copy-and-paste capabilities like the BlackBerrys of the era did, Oh noted, but Apple eventually added them to great success.
Bob O'Donnellanalyst and founder, TECHnalysis Research
"Right now on the iPad Air 2, it feels like you're dealing with a consumer tablet but you're using it for business," Oh said. "It's intentionally simple so everyone can get it. If [Apple] can make [multi-tasking] not overly complex and it works for your business, there's a lot to be said for that."
In addition to multitasking, iOS 9 will add a new Trackpad capability to iPads. Users can use two fingers together to tap the keyboard and instantly turn it into a Trackpad. Apple demonstrated dragging text into an email using this new capability during the keynote.
Another iOS 9 feature that could impact enterprises is a new API around searches. Developers can deep-link their apps for Spotlight searches on mobile devices for more comprehensive results. Searches aren't linked to Apple IDs and won't be shared with third-parties, according to Apple.
Apple will also enhance Siri with more context sensitive features, such as suggestions for inviting certain contacts to meetings. Some apps will also be enhanced, including Notes, which will add bulleted lists, the ability to take a photo directly in the app and even sketch using your fingers. The additions to Notes make it more competitive with apps such as EverNote, O'Donnell said.
Developers can access iOS 9 today. A public beta will be available in July and general release in the fall. El Capitan will follow the same release schedule as iOS 9. A new version of the Apple Watch OS, watchOS 2, is also due this fall.
Learn how Apple's iOS 9 features will benefit business users