Stage Manager on Mac is an anchor for iPad

Stage Manager on Mac

During Apple’s WWDC Keynote earlier this week - just after they announced Ventura as the next version of MacOS - Stage Manager was introduced.

Stage Manager was the first new feature announced for this latest version of the OS. Yet it’s essentially a way to manage your app windows.

Here’s the segment if you haven’t seen it:

From my perspective - and from what I’ve seen online - most people are going to continue to use Mission Control and Spaces (virtual desktops) to manage their windows. I’m sure some people will use Stage Manager as part of their new workflow, but I don’t see it taking over as a new default anytime soon.

So why bother showing it front and center? Has Apple run out of ideas? Can I ask any other hyperbolic questions?

I think it was shown so prominently on MacOS for a different reason.

Anchoring for iPad

If you haven’t heard of Anchoring before, it’s a cognitive bias whereby an individual’s decisions are influenced by a particular reference point - or an anchor.

Anchoring is usually used in the context of pricing. Price something super high (the anchor) and the cheaper options look more appealing - even if they’re more expensive than perhaps they should be. Probably sounds familiar.

In this context it’s being used as a way to make iPadOS (rather, just M1 iPads) seem more desktop-like. MacOS is the anchor for Stage Manager on iPad. “Stage Manager is a first-class windowing system on Mac, iPadOS also has Stage Manager, therefore the desktop experience on Mac and iPad are equivalent.”

Listen to Craig in the segment where it’s introduced for iPad:

Here’s the important part:

So we’re bringing Stage Manager — our latest windowing system, that you just saw in MacOS — to iPadOS

It’s the headline feature of the new version of the desktop OS, and it’s also on the iPad! Amazing! Right?

Stage Manager doesn’t really seem to be a feature that solves any major issues people have on a Mac. But for iPad? It’s a huge step up. It’s now even more of a laptop replacement. And the external display support seems great too. Although it’s still got a long way to go for many people before they decide to use an iPad over a laptop.

Essentially, as I see it, Stage Manager on MacOS is there for the benefit of iPadOS. Let’s imagine for a second if Stage Manager was announced as an iPad exclusive feature. Do you think we’d hear huge demand for it on Mac?

On the other hand, if Apple didn’t show Stage Manager on MacOS first, we would still hear complaints that iPadOS isn’t for ‘serious’ users “What’s this dumbed-down tablet desktop?!” they would say. iPad needs Mac to have Stage Manager in order for Stage Manager to be viewed as ‘true’ desktop-class software. Without it, it’s seen as a lesser desktop experience that amounts to window grouping on a second dock.

Stage manager looks optimized for iPad too. The contraints that the iPad has in regards to window management (lack of traditional minimizing & closing, virtual desktops, etc.) are handled well. So why use the windowing system developed with those contraints in mind when they don’t exist on Mac?

By anchoring the idea that Stage Manager is a windowing system for a Mac, it increases the perception that iPads with Stage Manager are closer to desktops than they really are. It softens the impact of not having a ‘full’ or ‘traditional’ window management system.

Am I overthinking it? Probably. No doubt someone reading this will tell me how wrong I am. Who knows, maybe Stage Manager on the Mac will be a game changer.