The latest version of Apple's iOS has some significant new features that just might change how the iPad is used.
Every year, we engage in the same dance: Apple announces a new version of iOS, and we instantly start wondering how our devices will change as a result.
iOS announcements tend to work forward for phones (the new iPhone is expected this spring), but for iPads, they work backwards; the third-generation iPad with Retina display came out in March.
A host of new iOS 6 features change some of what the iPhone can be. Will iOS 6 change the iPad, too? Yes, if you're thinking of heavily using Siri, or you own a 4G/3G third-gen iPad or iPad 2.
iPad with Siri and navigation becomes a car-mounted device
Take that same 4G LTE iPad, mount it on your dashboard and suddenly you have a voice-driven, connected navigation computer, thanks to Apple's new Maps app. Some people already use iPads on the road for GPS purposes, but expect that number to grow.
iPad as a hands-free home device
Could Siri be used to enable hands-free control of a connected Apple TV or other services? Siri still doesn't have an API — a way for developers to hook Siri functions into their own applications — but imagine docking your iPad and speaking to it to check out sports scores, emails or other data. The larger screen and viewing distance make using Siri on an iPad in this regard more practical than doing it on an iPhone that you hold in your hand. You'd still need to press and hold the home button to activate Siri, or perhaps a Bluetooth remote or another accessory could help make Siri more iPad useful.
iPad as better road-warrior laptop replacement
What I hope this means is that the iPad will become a true laptop replacement for bloggers such as myself. I discovered recently that writing a whole post, even from a plane, is doable; but uploading photos to a content-management system or website via an iPad has always been a hassle. iOS 6 will make it possible to upload photos or videos directly from Safari (to eBay, Craigslist or other sites, according to Apple), meaning that finally, the time may come when direct uploads will be possible without using an app as a middleman.
iPad as a better offline e-reader?
Well, that's tough to improve: the iPad has tons of reading apps. However, Safari's baked-in offline reading mode, which seems designed to kill apps like Instapaper, will make offline reading just a bit easier.
iPad as a better second (or third) screen
As seen above, in Apple's illustration, features like iCloud tabs aim to make sharing work between multiple screens even easier. With iOS 6, we might be a step closer to the Minority Report vision of screens everywhere, with your necessary work thrown onto whatever device is needed. Even more integrated apps and features between iPhone, iPad and MacBook bear some of that promise.