The next iPad: Software changes we'd like to see


: The request to display small, useful nuggets of information goes double for the iPad's spacious lock screen, which currently contains a time, date, slideshow button, and an image of your choice. That screen could be the perfect place to get a quick glance at key bits of information--the day's appointments, local weather, and recent e-mail subject headers--without having to repeatedly unlock the device and tap into a bunch of separate apps.

Apple finally gave iPhone and iPad users the ability to multitask in iOS 4, and while it's definitely been an improvement over the way things used to be, the iPad's larger screen real estate cries out for a more powerful way of working with multiple applications at once.

: Whether it's getting a calendar reminder, receiving an instant message, or presenting an alert from an app, the iPad takes a one-size-fits-all approach to notification--and that size, unfortunately, is aimed more at the iPhone. Despite the iPad's large, gorgeous display, notifications remain confined to a tiny little box that pops up in the middle of the screen, disrupting whatever task currently has your attention. And if you have more than one app vying for your attention, pretty soon you've got a stack of dialogs that you have to step through one by one. Contrast this with the approaches found on Android and WebOS tablets, which represent notifications as icons in one corner of the screen, letting the user expand and dismiss them at will. At this point, iOS notifications feel as antiquated as voicemail before Visual Voicemail came along.

: There's also room for multitasking improvement when it comes to getting content on your iPad. We hope to see a way for newspaper and magazine apps to periodically check for, and download, content updates in the background. That way, the freshest news (or current issue) is always at your fingertips when you launch each app--a real improvement on the experience of browsing those publications on the Web. (Amazon's Kindle, for example, automatically downloads daily newspapers in the dead of night, so they're ready to read when you wake up in the morning.) Apps such as Twitter clients, RSS readers, and could also benefit. Improvements here would be in Apple's interest, as well, as they would surely increase periodical and newspaper subscriptions, and thus increase the revenue the company gets from its cut of those subscriptions.