What iOS 4.3, And Specifically The New Multi-Touch Gestures, May Say About iPad 2

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If there’s one thing that came out of CES this year, it’s that everyone, and I do mean everyone, wants a piece of the action that Apple absolutely dominates with the iPad right now. Tablets, tablets, tablet, tablets. We’ll see dozens upon dozens of them released this year. So how will Apple meet the onslaught? With the iOS 4.3 beta that just got pushed to developers today, it looks like we may have a first glimpse of the answer. One that may also point to the big answer: iPad 2.

As Macstories points out, a part of the iOS 4.3 beta looks to be new gesture support for the iPad. As they write:

It looks like iOS 4.3 has some cool new gestures built specifically for the iPad. 4 & 5 finger gestures; pinch to the home screen, swipe up to reveal multitasking tray, swipe left/right to switch apps.

Engadget snagged a picture of the settings for this.

Simply put: for hardcore iPad users, this is excellent news. It means that multitasking on the device will get a huge kick in the pants. What used to take a few somewhat tedious button clicks and touches of the screen can now be doing via swiping with the correct finger orientation.

Apple has a history of releasing multi-touch touch products with limited support for gestures, then adding new ones. This was the case with the original multi-touch trackpads, which gained new gestures over time. Now they’re doing it with the iPad as well.

But what’s really interesting about this is the timing.

Why is Apple including these features in iOS 4.3 rather than waiting for iOS 5, which will presumably come later this year when Apple unveils a new iPhone? Perhaps it means that iOS 4.3 will be the software that the iPad 2 launches with. It’s pure speculation, but maybe Apple decided that they wanted to have just a few nifty new software features (such as gestures and the mute/orientation lock option) for the new iPad launch, but will put most of the focus on the new hardware at launch.

Maybe the iPad 2 unveiling will also serve as a iOS 5 roadmap, which Apple has done in the past as its own event, outlining what’s coming in the next iteration of the OS so developers can get ready. Perhaps Apple doesn’t need developers to get ready for these gestures because it seems as if they’ll be system level. As in, third-party developers probably won’t have access to the four and five finger multi-touch options so that Apple can ensure they work in the same way for the new level of multitasking.

It took Apple quite a bit of time to unify iOS across the iPhone/iPod touch and the iPad. So you have to believe they don’t want to fragment it again. So maybe the timeline is this:

  • iOS 4.2.5 will launch alongside the Verizon iPhone on February 3.
  • Then in February/March, we’ll see the iPad 2 launch with iOS 4.3 for all iOS devices. At that time, we’ll get an outline of what’s to come in iOS 5.
  • And iOS 5 will launch in June for all supported iOS devices alongside the iPhone 5.

Again, all speculation. But sounds reasonable, no?

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