During a recent episode of the Eight or Sixteen podcast, my co-host Rob decided to list everything Apple released during 2021.

The list was absolutely colossal. There were four new iPhones, three new iPads, three Macs with far-reaching changes to their design and internals, a new Apple Watch, a raft of accessories including AirTags, and a whole bunch of services including iCloud+ and the Apple Music Voice Plan.

And that’s before we get to the usual operating system updates and, yes, new HomePod mini colours.

What a year, right? In fact, it makes you wonder how they can top it during 2022. But I think they can, and it comes down to one release in particular.

For me, the biggest Apple release of 2022 needs to be iPadOS 16. Here’s why.

A troubled birth (that’s still taking place)

There’s nothing wrong with iPadOS 15. Indeed, there are a number of updates that have made it an increasingly useful operating system within my business.

There’s just one glaring omission. It still doesn’t take advantage of the iPad. At all.

I was an early adopter – I bought the first iPad almost as soon as it hit the shelves back in 2010. Friends and family mocked me, understandably, for buying what essentially looked like a big iPhone. Because that’s exactly what it was.

iPadOS 15 still makes the iPad look like a big iPhone. The home screen (despite being recently granted access to larger widgets) looks like the home screen on the iPhone. It’s just a sea of app icons.

The available screen estate isn’t best used on any of the iPads in this regard. Most notably, the new iPad mini features a home screen that inexplicably fails to span the width of the device.

But iPadOS has far deeper problems. Beyond the lack of customisation for larger screens, it barely touches the power that is nestled within every new iPad. From the iPad mini to the 12.9” iPad Pro, these tablets absolutely smash the competition in benchmarks. In fact, they have done so for years. But benchmarks bore me to tears. I have zero interest in them. What I want is an operating system that harnesses the power of the iPad and provides the tools, hooks, and APIs necessary to enable truly professional applications to run on these devices.

I still believe that placing an M1 chip in the iPad Pro was an utter waste of time during a year that saw no meaningful changes to iPadOS, nor the emergence of Apple’s pro apps for the device.

What we need from iPadOS 16

I want two things from iPadOS 16:

  • more differentiation from iOS; and
  • support for pro apps.

It’s time to wave goodbye to springboard on iPadOS. And widgets aren’t enough; we need an operating system that makes use of that screen, and which borrows more heavily from macOS.

What’s to stop Apple from creating a desktop for the iPad? It wouldn’t have to look like the one with which we’re so familiar in macOS, either – it could be reimagined, built for touch, and intended entirely for the iPad’s lush expanse of screen estate.

Similarly, split-screen and slide-over for multitasking isn’t badly implemented on iPadOS, but why not make properly windowed apps a thing instead? Let us move them freely around the screen and arrange several apps (yes, more than three) however we wish?

Why not remove all of the hamfistedness that comes from trying to shoehorn traditional OS features into a modern touch-based OS? Stepping backwards, as Apple has proved with the new MacBook Pro, counts as progress, too.

As for pro app support, I understand entirely if you’re scratching your head. Isn’t this up to the developers to provide us with those pro apps? Of course it is. But Apple needs to lead the charge, and that has to start with the aforementioned changes I’ve suggested for iPadOS.

For me, pro apps include Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro. But I can’t imagine either of them being much fun within the constraints of iPadOS 15.

File management is a case in point. Whenever I encounter the need to work with individual files on iPadOS – be it the simple process of locating and copying files from one destination to another or something more complex – it feels almost impenetrable. Invariably, I always return to the Mac to complete the task.

If the iPad was a little more computer-like, this problem wouldn’t exist. And the same goes for pro app support; until iPadOS feels a little bit more like my Mac, I fear that the likes of Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro will be far too fiddly, or, worse, pared-down, to be even remotely useful.

Why iPadOS 16 is so important

It’s time for the iPad to grow up. It needs to break free of its iPhone heritage.

The iPad is a completely new computing paradigm – I get that. We shouldn’t think of the iPad as a traditional computer – I get that, too.

But the march of electric vehicles (EVs) isn’t being hampered by some new-fangled way of driving. Nor is it demanding that roads should be designed in an entirely different way. The basics of what make cars so useful and inherently easy to use have been retained, and it’s why EVs will succeed.

This is what we need from iPadOS 16. I want a bit more Mac in there; I want Apple to stop shoehorning in features that simply don’t work on a touch-based interface, or which are so hard to discover that only 3% of users find them. There’s a reason they’ve faffed around so much with features like multitasking; they can’t find a decent way of making it work.

More importantly, I want a reason to use my iPad Pro more wholesomely. I’d dearly love a device on which I can make music without feeling like I’m just toying with the future. I’d love to edit my a-roll in a coffee shop without taking out my beast of a 16” MacBook Pro.

Will Apple make my iPad dreams come true next year? Only time will tell.