Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Stage Manager Compatibility

Matthew Panzarino, TechCrunch:

I had a chance to talk briefly with Apple SVP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi last week about the new iPadOS features aimed at enhancing multitasking and multi-app work. We chatted about the timing, execution and reactions to these announcements.

[…]

Stage Manager takes advantage of the more powerful GPU, faster I/O in virtual memory, faster storage and more RAM that the M1 chips brought to the table. That all had to come together to keep the experience fluid and this year, they did, says Federighi.

Michael Tsai:

[…] I honestly don’t understand his argument. I don’t think it’s that pre-M1 iPads couldn’t support virtual memory, since even the A12Z in the DTK did. That processor also had great performance running more simultaneous apps than iPadOS supports. Stage Manager is also supported on older Macs with Intel processors — and older graphics — that are less capable than recent-but-not-M1 iPads.

Tsai’s post includes a roundup of commentary, including several people pointing out how multitasking has existed in MacOS for decades, even on systems running on the apparently asthmatic performance of Intel and PowerPC processors.

Manton Reece:

I think the root issue is that when people choose a computer to buy, they don’t expect the operating system to change significantly for different computer models. You buy a more expensive Mac because it has a larger screen, or is faster, or has more ports. You buy a more expensive iPhone because it has better cameras. You buy a more expensive iPad because it has the latest Pencil support. It is a hardware decision, not a software one.

I love a piece that makes me think more about something I considered settled, and this is one of those. I count myself among those who saw recent iPad Pro models in need of differentiation, and Stage Manager delivers.

Reece frames this limitation as “without precedent” — a set of system features beyond wallpaper and grab bag features choked by high hardware standards. It is almost a reversal of the way system requirements used to work, where you could get bare minimum compatibility all around; if you had better hardware, you could get some bonus features. This is common in games, and readers of a certain age will remember when more capable hardware got you better UI performance in Mac OS X. But even if you ran the least-powerful Mac supported by the operating system, you still got full multitasking.

The restriction of Stage Manager and memory swapping in iPadOS 16 is the complete inverse. No matter which iPad model you have, you will see gorgeous graphics and use super fast flash memory — but you need a recent iPad Pro or Air model to more efficiently multitask. That is kind of weird. Buying a MacBook Pro does not unlock a better workflow model than what is available on a MacBook Air, but buying an iPad Pro means you get exclusive system capabilities. Strange — but perhaps something to get used to as a differentiator going forward.