When I attended WWDC for the first time in 2010 the iPad was still brand new and not yet available in Ireland. Many had dismissed it as just a big iPhone, others (me, at least) had hyped it as A BIG IPHONE.
It ran iPhone OS version 3.2.
As we queued up before the Monday morning keynote we were all expecting the next iPhone and the next version of iPhone OS and we speculated about what new features we’d see. There was one seemingly minor announcement though, that nobody was expecting: the next version of the operating system would be called iOS 4, dropping the ‘iPhone’ to accommodate iPad. It made sense at the time and initially my only reaction was delight at how they managed to do it mid presentation, with nobody slipping up and using the new name before the announcement and nobody using the old one afterwards. In the years that followed though, as the ‘just a big iPhone’ opinions persisted and many developers put forth minimal effort in making their iPhone apps work on iPad, I came to think that not creating a separate identity for the iPad’s operating system was a missed opportunity, one that they finally rectified this year by renaming iPad’s operating system to iPad OS.
Perhaps making it incredibly clear that iPhone developers could make iPad apps made the previous OS naming scheme worthwhile up to a point but I believe making it clearer that iPad has its own OS, with its own interface, its own set of interactions and idioms that are distinct from iPhone will be a bigger benefit to software on the platform. OS naming is now consistent across all of Apple’s mobile devices - they are all based off iOS but Apple Watch runs watch OS, Apple TV runs tv OS and iPad runs iPad OS. These operating systems are not distinct in terms of technology or how we develop for them or who can develop for them, the distinction rather is in how the user interacts with them. Hopefully (and I believe it will) for iPad, this will result in more differentiated iPad software that takes advantage of its unique and powerful features.