The iPad Pro Manifesto (2024 Edition)

May 14 2024

Another year, another series of incredibly-overpowered new iPads Pro, another round of '…shame the software sucks, though' reviews. But 'sucks' means different things to different people, and it's been a while since I put together an iPad manifesto so I thought I'd delineate where I think iPadOS is dropping the ball or needs improvement specifically from a core OS/developer perspective.

Below are the tentpoles that I think should be, need to be, addressed to make iPad Pro live up to the expectations of its monstrously-powerful M-series chip and multi-thousand-dollar asking price.

Background Tasks

Apps should be able to create long-running tasks, or persistent tasks, that can use meaningful resources in the background as sub-processes. A scripting app like Pythonista should be able to run scripts in a secondary process that, if it crashes, won't take down the host app. Final Cut Pro should be able to export video in the background and let you work in other apps while you wait. Clipboard managers, like Clip, should be able to run in the background without the developer having to build an entire alternative app store and EU-based company to distribute it in, first 😛.

Virtualization & macOS

Bring the Hypervisor and Virtualization frameworks to iPadOS, to run macOS, Windows, Linux virtual machines at full native performance. All M-series iPads support hardware virtualization, and Apple has experimented with this internally for years.

In its most basic implementation, an Apple-provided 'Classic Environment' of sorts that allows you run the current version of macOS, as an app, with the full performance of the CPU and GPU, would go a long way to addressing the shortcomings of iPadOS. This kind of escape hatch can provide the environment necessary to run complex command line software or automation flows, and use powerful missing apps like Xcode, Photoshop, Blender et al. Apple's Vision Pro has its own Virtual Mac Display that many people will tell you is the best part of the entire device, but that still requires a Mac sitting on a table to power it. Both iPad Pro and Vision Pro can, and should, do this with virtualization.

Virtualization isn't the answer to all of iPad's problems, but it provides a runway to let Apple take as long as it wants to evolve iPad's software while ending the 'can this replace my computer?' angst. It also immediately justifies the iPad Pro pricing and strips away the pointless 'them vs us' divide between iPad users and Mac users. If a $3,000 Mac can run iPad apps, why can't a $3,000 iPad do the inverse of this?

The 'future of computing' doesn't begin until Apple's next-gen platforms can run Mac apps.


Stage Manager was such a missed opportunity: it tried to bolt-on a windowing model onto iPadOS without providing developers any way to optimize for it, and has had virtually no meaningful improvements in two years. What I really want to see are APIs. APIs to know when an app is running in Stage Manager and give it an opportunity to enable extra functionality to accommodate that — like having an 'open in New Window' context menu option that it would otherwise hide. APIs to set window size/shape, minimum and maximum size. APIs to open a window in split view if possible, with a preferred screen side. APIs to drag a window on mouse-down. Auxiliary views or inspector panels that can be floated on/near a primary window, like visionOS' ornaments.

Many of these features are available as APIs to apps using the iOS SDK… on macOS and visionOS. Which is why it boggles the mind that iPad's own Stage Manager spec completely shunned them, and ignored the explicit intent provided by developers as to how they want their apps to work. Stage Manager wasn't provided as an opportunity to make our apps better, it was inflicted on developers in a way that harmed the developer, and user, experience. Which is why today you can very quickly stumble upon apps that don't quite resize correctly, or have important parts of the UI covered by the virtual keyboard, or toolbars floating in strange places.

Stage Manager needs a rethink, that much is certain, but it's so important not to ignore the developer experience in the process next time round. You can't introduce a windowing model without any developer APIs and then expect robust adoption.


And related to windowing, a system-provided tabbed windowing model is so long overdue it's not even funny anymore. Window tabbing is one of the greatest advanced features added to macOS, and it makes even more sense on a smaller device like an iPad. In fact, there are so many cases where you're forced into various multitasking modes on iPad today when what you really wanted was just a few documents open in tabs. macOS has tabs, Windows has tabs — tabs are how computers work nowadays. And on iPad, every app has to reinvent the wheel if they want to implement a tabbing model. This shouldn't be so.

Safari on iPad has a great traditional implementation of tabs, with a zoomable overview mode and the ability to drag tabs into new windows or merge multiple windows together. I would love to see this provided as a system control so that any app could do these things.


A long-running request: multiple simultaneous audio/video streams and independent audio I/O and volume control. Routing, patching, mixing and recording, to enable apps like Audio Hijack. System audio taps to record audio from all apps. These features exist in iPadOS, but like many of the things on this list, Apple keeps them for its own apps.

Plugins and Custom Extensions

Apps should be able to define new and novel custom Extension interfaces, and vend them to other third-party apps using XPC. A cross-app plugin architecture, with all the system security you expect from a modern OS, with process separation and entitlements. If, say, Procreate wanted to expose a plugin API for third-party apps to provide brushes or special effects, for example, it shouldn't have to wait for Apple to come along and invent that Extension Point first. Or if Delta wanted to expose a way for third-party apps to provide CPU cores to emulate new kinds of vintage games console. Or if a video editing app wanted to provide a hook for custom video encoders/decoders. And so on.


Massively improve the reliability of the Files app infrastructure, including for third-party file services. I should never have to reboot my iPad because an SMB share isn't connecting properly, or a file service is showing stale, cached data. I should be able to reliably copy large files off USB mass storage without random disconnects or corruption. I should be able to choose which app a file type defaults to, and open it immediately in that app without going through the QuickLook -> Share -> Open In… dance. Files is one of the weakest aspects of iPadOS, and quite simply those of us who use it regularly just don't trust it to work.

Full Disk/Filesystem Access & APIs

When iPad was introduced, Apple tried to kickstart a new era where files and folders didn't exist, where everything was stored in app silos, and users were kept in blissful ignorance. But it's clear, fourteen years later, that files and folders are still incredibly important to computing, especially in the kinds of workflows one might be purchasing an iPad Pro for. iPad now has long had a Files app, it supports USB Mass Storage and network shares, and even reads/writes files/projects to physical media in Apple's own pro apps like Final Cut Pro. But there are a whole host of things iPad cannot do that are very important for dealing with storage volumes, like formatting drives, verifying filesystems, repair, recovery, and backup. If you want to use a mass storage device with your iPad, better bring it to a 'real computer' first to prepare it.


Just-in-time compilation is essential to power things like web browsers, console and PC emulators, and language-based virtual machines. It is used by Apple's own apps, like Playgrounds, to empower key functionality that no third party app can match. And it is provided in a very limited way (with a ton of asterisks) to Alternative Web Browsers in the EU under the DMA, so they can implement their own JavaScript engines. The DolphiniOS project, which emulates Nintendo's GameCube, recently posted a video that perfectly encapsulates the problem and demonstrates why emulators for newer consoles just can't come to iPadOS. Other app stores, like Microsoft's Windows Store, offer a JIT entitlement as standard, and I think Apple should, too.

Local App Compilation & Installation

It's 2024: there needs to be a way for an iPad-based IDE to build and deploy a full app, locally, to the home screen. This is the kind of thing that Apple does in its own Playgrounds app, a key unfair competitive advantage versus any other IDE or programming language. This functionality should be exposed such that third-party developers can do something similar. Compilation, in most cases, relies on also having access to JIT (above).

I'm not saying that an app built using these mechanisms should sidestep any system security, but there should be a golden path that lets you build, validate, sign/notarize, and install (on your device only, perhaps) built right in to iPadOS. If that flow involves a step that uploads your binary to Apple to scan it for malware, or whatever, it doesn't matter — just make end-to-end app development, in other IDEs and languages, not only possible but feasible.

Currently, the only way to do this on iPad is with Apple's Swift Playgrounds. The only language it lets you use is Swift. And the only distribution mechanism you can choose from there is Apple's App Store, which locks you in to giving Apple 15/30% of your revenue in perpetuity. No other app is allowed to do these things, both by policy and by technical restriction. Do you see the problem here? If that's not anticompetitive, I don't know what is.

The Menu Bar

iPadOS has a system shortcuts panel filled with keyboard commands in all your favorite apps, but its discoverability is really low — hold the Command key, with a hardware keyboard attached, and it will pop up. This panel is completely hidden to users relying on the software keyboard.

So much high-end iPad software ends up hiding its advanced functionality behind mystery-meat multi-finger gestures, when really what would be helpful is a persistent menu bar at the top of the screen. The menu bar has always served as a teaching tool on the Mac, where you can go and explore to see what functionality an app might have.

Stage Manager already has UI to enable/disable the sidebar and the Dock — an extra option that shows/hides a system menu bar in the same way would fit right in. So wouldn't it make sense, then, to have a system menu bar in Stage Manager mode? Even if it's only shown on external displays, where space isn't at a premium.

And perhaps too it would make sense to have system shortcut keys — control, alt, command, etc — on the virtual keyboard. This is something Windows does, and it works well.

Both of these features could help iPadOS scale up to larger screen sizes, on larger iPads perhaps (15"? yes please), without taking anything away from the existing experience.


iPadOS, and iOS for that matter, should have a built-in help system. macOS has a legacy Help system that is dated, badly documented and a pain to implement in your Mac apps — so I'm not suggesting that it be ported over to iPad. But I think it's long past time for a new, modern Help API across all of Apple's platforms that makes it easy to provide documentation in-app. Straightforward to write using HTML and Markdown, support for SF Symbols and localization, with dedicated creation tools built in to Xcode.

I feel so strongly about this that I wrote my own, for Broadcasts.

There is so much more to write about iPad Pro, but I will leave that to better people. iPad has been my favorite platform and form factor of choice for fourteen years, but the software feels like it's stuck in molasses. You can summarize every iPad review for the past decade: iPad hardware is writing checks that its OS simply can't cash. iPad silicon has so rapidly outgrown the limitations of the software that it has had ample time to break out and do three generational laps through the entire Mac lineup and back since the last time I wrote about it, and yet little has meaningfully improved about the iPad experience.

I don't think that's tenable — not for iPad, and especially not for Apple Vision Pro, which, as it runs basically the same OS and software stack, is subject to all the same limitations and problems as iPad and more. Now, more than ever, is the time to break the mold and take iPad to the next level; the future of computing depends on it.