Date
22 September 2019
Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during the firm’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, California, on June 3. Photo: Reuters
Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during the firm’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, California, on June 3. Photo: Reuters

Can iPad become a growth engine for Apple with new OS?

Apple has unveiled the next versions of operating systems for its entire hardware portfolio, promising several key improvements. Among the many initiatives that were highlighted on Monday at the firm’s annual developer conference in San Jose, what was particularly interesting was news that the iPad will now get its own distinctive operating system.

Called iPadOS, the updated software will add powerful new features that will make a tablet device work more like a desktop computer.

Expected to be launched in the autumn after beta trials, the new operating system will build on changes being implemented under Apple’s upcoming iPhone iOS 13 and add some unique elements. 

According to the preview on Monday, the Home screen has been redesigned with a new layout to show more apps on each page. It will allow users to pin widgets on the Home screen, and also makes text editing on the device much easier, among various enhancements.

Users will be able to “point with even more precision and speed, select text with just a swipe and use new gestures to cut, copy, paste and undo,” Apple noted in a press release. 

The system also brings new ways to work with apps in multiple windows, and faster ways to use Apple Pencil.

The iPad operating system deserves a new name to recognize the distinctive experience it will offer, the US tech giant said.

With the firm effectively set to have two operating systems for mobile devices, one for the iPhone and one for iPad, it is clear that Apple is no longer treating iPad as a bigger version of iPhone.

The iPad will be a unique product with its own operating system, with the company hoping to reposition the tablet for business use, or even as a replacement for laptop computer.

Apple has good reason to enhance its focus on the iPad and try to boost that business, given a slowdown in iPhone sales in the recent past.

As its main operation shows signs of losing steam, with the smartphone industry in general hitting a plateau, Apple needs to find a new growth engine to maintain its revenue and earnings growth. 

While the firm has set subscription services as its next growth engine, it still needs hardware businesses to attract new users to subscribe for the services. It is in this context that the iPad is gaining in importance.

By repositioning the product and touting its appeal for consumers as well as business users, Apple hopes to bring in new customers and boost its user base, which can then be leveraged to sell various services and apps.

iPad, as a matter of fact, has been a key growth driver for Apple in its most recent quarter while iPhone sales were flat. In the firm’s fiscal second quarter ended March, iPad sales witnessed their strongest growth in six years, reaching US$4.9 billion and marking a 22 percent jump from the figure in the corresponding period a year ago.

The growth could be due to the launch of a new iPad Pro series. Market watchers believe the buyers of iPad Air and iPad mini are existing iPad users going in for newer models. With the company now set to launch a new iPadOS with advanced features, it can try to lure laptop PC users for business purpose, especially in the mobile office segment where Microsoft Surface is a significant player.

Apple said the new iPadOS builds on the same foundation as iOS, adding new capabilities and intuitive features specific to the large display and versatility of iPad. 

The new iPadOS adds several key new features that makes the tablet suitable for business use, and makes it more like a laptop computer. It now has mouse support based on assistive touch feature. Users can use Apple’s Magic Trackpad, any wireless bluetooth mice and USB mice. For Mac users, an iPad can be the second screen through wireless connection between the two devices.

File system is a weak link for iPad in its bid to be a laptop replacement. But the new operating system will allow users to retrieve files from external storage devices like USB thumb drives, just like using traditional computer. Users can also download files to iPad within the browser and save them in the iPad’s storage.

These are relatively basic computing tasks, but by adding them to iPadOS, Apple is “tacitly acknowledging that iPads needed to take a few cues from traditional computers to make them more valuable work machines,” tech news and reviews website engadget noted.

For loyal Apple fans, the proposition of iPad, Macbook or Macbook Air may be more or less similar. All the devices aim to provide mobility for users handling clerical works on the go. But it is quite difficult for users to define the exact usage of iPad and Macbook.

In general, many people think iPad is an entertainment device to watch YouTube or movies, and that Macbook is a device that allows users to do complicated document works across different applications.

Apple did improve the iOS in previous years to enable the iPad to handle multi-tasking, but the actual user experience for multi-tasking has been far from satisfactory, as only a limited number of apps support the multi-tasking feature. 

Three years ago, Apple launched iPad Pro with Apple Pencil to strengthen the device application for artists and designers with handwriting capability. 

The new iPadOS will offer a better user experience for doing clerical works as well as a faster response time for Apple Pencil and a new file storage system.

This will allow Apple to promote the iPad as a mobile workstation and put it in competition with Google Chromebook and Microsoft Surface.

The Cupertino-based tech behemoth will be hoping for a significant breakthrough, pitching the iPad, with its new OS, as a viable laptop replacement.

Get set for an interesting battle in the marketplace in the months to come.

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RC

EJ Insight writer