A new report from a trusted Apple leaker has suggested that Apple is planning to ship its first foldable iPad as soon as next year. No details about the device itself have been revealed yet, including whether or not it will be an iPhone / iPad hybrid, or iPad / Laptop hybrid.
Assuming it's the latter, this does raise an important question for us in the PC space: Where is Microsoft's foldable Surface PC? Foldables are up and coming, and we're already starting to see them from Microsoft's own partners like Lenovo and ASUS, but Microsoft itself is yet to venture down the path of foldable tablet PCs.
Android is already being adapted to work better on foldable phones and tablets, which has benefited manufacturers like Samsung, Xiaomi, and Oppo immensely. Over on the PC side, we've not seen anything of the sort. Microsoft has not updated Windows to better support foldable screens, so manufacturers have been forced to handle the software aspect themselves.
As a result, Windows foldables are a bit of a mess. Lenovo's first foldable had terrible software that essentially strong-armed Windows into bending to conform to a foldable screen, but it never worked well. Lenovo's second foldable PC is on the horizon, and while it does use updated software, early hands-on demos do make it seem like the experience still isn't going to be as polished as might be on an Android device.
If Apple is planning to ship a foldable iPad next year, then it's likely already working on foldable support for iOS and iPadOS. Arguably, Apple is in the best position to ship a foldable device, being that it has both high-quality phone and tablet apps that the device could switch between on the fly.
And knowing Apple, its software polish will simply blow everything else out of the water. Transitions and animations will be smooth, unlike on Windows PCs using third-party software to force Windows into submission.
Here's what Windows needs to be good on foldable PCs:
- Fluid animations when switching between postures.
- Automatic detection of a physical keyboard on one half of the screen.
- Be able to switch off one side of the display when using a 360-degree folding screen.
- Be able to correctly switch between tablet and laptop modes and have the bottom half be a virtual keyboard/trackpad and the top half be the Windows desktop.
I'm hoping that with the next big release of the Windows client in 2024, Microsoft does add these things to support foldable PCs. If Microsoft wants Windows to be a viable player in the foldable market, it simply needs to support these things sooner rather than later.
Additionally, a Surface foldable PC would go a long way to showing the market that it's serious about foldables, as Google and Apple are rumored to be doing imminently. We know Microsoft is working on a foldable Surface Duo 3, but that's going to be an Android device, not Windows.
Next year could be the perfect time to relaunch the Neo and Duo vision, but with two foldable devices instead of dual-screen devices. The Surface Duo 3 being a foldable phone running Android, and the rebirthed Surface Neo being a foldable PC running Windows.
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