Last week, Apple made it clear that it intends for iOS to remain the dominant mobile platform for the enterprise. iOS 11, which will be released as a public beta later this month and is due out in final form this fall, doubles down on productivity, offers a more intuitive UI, and ensures that the iPad Pro can actually replace a PC for the vast majority of worker tasks.
The most notable iOS 11 features for business use are, not surprisingly tied to the iPad Pro, which in the past has been useful for certain tasks — especially for designers and for word processing — but often didn’t meet the bar to serve as a true PC alternative.
The biggest issue with the iPad has always stemmed from its inception as a mobile device. When Apple’s tablet arrived seven years ago, there was a lot of dismissive talk that it was really nothing more than a larger iPhone or iPod Touch. It didn’t help that Apple initially positioned the iPad as a consumer device, one for viewing content rather than creating it. Despite Apple’s efforts to make iOS devices true enterprise citizens — and it’s had a fair amount of success doing so — the belief persists that the iPad isn’t a PC (or Mac) and therefore is a secondary device rather than a primary computing solution.
Within that debate, there’s a nugget of truth. iOS is, and always has been, a mobile OS. It was originally designed for a phone, where the capabilities needed for business are rather different. We don’t expect to do 3D modeling or write long documents or presentations on a phone, despite its processing power and today’s larger form factors. Apple also made an effort to ensure continuity of user experience across all iOS devices, which includes devices with displays ranging from four inches to almost 13.
Apple has been largely successful in doing that. But trying to keep a single user experience across those form factors and use cases had the effect of hobbling how users, particularly business users, could be productive on the iPad. iOS 11 breaks that tradition by delivering a much more capable, even somewhat desktop-like, user interface on the iPad compared to the iPhone. From what we’ve seen so far, Apple managed this without truly disrupting the relation between the iPad and iPhone.
Apple’s decision to deliver a more unique experience on the iPad this year also had a side effect. Many of the newly unveiled interface elements in iOS 11 on the iPad take design cues from macOS. Drag and drop, the on-screen Dock, the Files app, the ability to have multiple paired apps and slide between them, all are strongly reminiscent of their desktop counterparts.
In making the iPad more capable, it’s becoming more Mac-like. If you put Apple’s product lines side by side, there is now a very effective and obvious progression of user interface from desktop to tablet to phone to watch. This gives all of Apple’s products a greater sense of cohesion. And it strengthens Apple’s ecosystem because one device leads so naturally to the next. That’s even clearer when you consider services like the Continuity features Apple released two years ago, or even the ease of setup for products like the Apple Watch and AirPods.