iPadOS 16 Stage ManagerSource: Apple

It's early hours, and we don't yet know how well one of the hottest new features in iPadOS 16 and macOS 13 Ventura will work in practice. And yet, if Stage Manager is anything close to being as terrific as it looked in today's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) keynote address, significant changes could be coming to both platforms. Better still, we could be getting ever-closer to iPads acting more like the best Macs.

What is Stage Manager?

Stage Manager automatically organizes open apps and windows so users can concentrate on their work and still see everything in a single glance. The current window users are working in is displayed prominently in the center, and other open windows appear on the left-hand side so they can quickly and easily switch between tasks. Users can also group windows when working on specific tasks or projects that require different apps.

With Stage Manager, open apps and windows are organized so that users can concentrate more on their work. On Mac, this means seeing the currently open window prominently displayed in the center of the screen while tiny screenshots of the others are lined up vertically on the left side of the display. On iPad, Stage Manager offers the same features available on Mac plus allows users to create overlapping windows of different sizes in a single view. The result on both devices is better organization.

macOS VenturaSource: Apple

Perhaps most significant about the arrival of Stage Manager is that it's only the latest in a series of steps that brings iPadOS closer in line to macOS. Previously, however, the movement was measured on whether an app could run successfully on both platforms (many now can) or whether one could extend or mirror Mac onto iPad. Stage Manager is different because it brings a similar tool to both platforms.

As one of my colleagues said soon after Stage Manager was announced for both platforms, this is a relatively minor step in the right direction to making iPadOS much more like macOS and vice versa. Regardless, it's a positive step.

A long way to go

If Apple wanted to bring macOS to a tablet, it could have done so long ago. It could have replaced iPadOS on iPads or introduced an all-new mobile device that would sit alongside the iPad and target different users, perhaps called an "iTablet," or "MacTab." Instead, incremental updates keep bringing the two operating systems closer together but nowhere near becoming one.

With iPadOS 16 and Stage Manager, is iPad now a suitable MacBook alternative? Absolutely not — just as Apple intended.