Apple’s Craig Federighi: Why Stage Manager Requires an M1 iPad

Apple’s Senior Vice President of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi, recently sat down for an interview with TechCrunch to talk about the iPad.

There has been a distinct gap between what the iPad is capable of and what it can actually do as of late, especially since the product gained the M1 chip last year.

The new features Apple announced for the iPad at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) last week were largely geared toward improving multitasking on the platform. Most noteworthy among these is ‘Stage Manager’.

Stage Manager is a new macOS Ventura feature that allows users to group open apps together and easily switch between different groups from an always-visible preview on the left-hand side.

Stage Manager is also coming to the iPad in iPadOS 16. However, the feature will only be available on iPads powered by desktop-class Apple Silicon like the M1 chip. Federighi explained why during the interview

“Building to M1 was critical,” the Apple exec said. “From the start, the iPad has always maintained this extremely high standard for responsiveness and interactivity.”

“And as you add multiple apps into play, and large amounts of screen real estate, you have to make sure that any one of those apps can respond instantaneously to touch in a way that you don’t have that expectation with a desktop app.”

Implementing Stage Manager required loads of RAM and “extremely fast I/O virtual memory” to keep so many apps readily accessible, the connectivity and capability to drive an external display at up to 6k resolution, and superior graphics performance to render Stage Manager’s intricate animations at high frame rates. Federighi said M1 offers all of that, and more.

“It’s only the M1 iPads that combined the high DRAM capacity with very high capacity, high performance NAND that allows our virtual memory swap to be super fast,” Federighi explained.

“Now that we’re letting you have up to four apps on a panel plus another four – up to eight apps to be instantaneously responsive and have plenty of memory, we just don’t have that ability on the other systems.”

Stage Manager on the iPad lets you have up to four apps open on the iPad and another four apps on an external display with support for resolutions of up to 6K, allowing for a total of 8 instantly available apps.

“When you put all this together, we can’t deliver the full stage manager experience on any lesser system,” Federighi concluded. “I mean, we would love to make it available everywhere we can. But this is what it requires.”

Apple is rumoured to refresh its iPad Pro line this year, and with M2 now a reality, we can only assume the new chip will make their way into this year’s high-end iPads.

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