Apple has taken the penultimate step in preparing iOS 4.2 for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. By offering the golden master version of the software to developers, it is a sign that Apple is nearly ready to offer it to consumers.
As per usual, some new features have appeared and old ones that vanished have reappeared. First, the multitasking bar now includes volume controls for the iPod player rather than just playback controls. Brightness controls have also been added. The iPad definitely has the real estate for these controls, and it is good to see Apple has made use of the room there.
Apple has added the AirPlay feature back to iOS 4.2. AirPlay lets users wirelessly stream music, videos, and photos from iPad to the new Apple TV (no word on compatibility with the old Apple TV). Users can also stream music to AirPlay speakers or receivers. Apple has removed AirPlay from the last developer build of iOS 4.2.
Though a number of features will appear across all three "i" devices, the iPad will be the primary beneficiary of iOS 4.2. The iPad's current OS version is 3.2.2. It lacks folders, multitasking and a number of other features that debuted with iOS 4.0 for the iPhone. That includes the Game Center and the ability to print from the iPad via Wi-Fi to select, compatible printers.
iOS 4.2 will give the iPad a significant boost in capabilities. The addition of folders and multitasking alone will help to make it a better device, let alone the bonus items such as AirPlay and wireless printing.
With any luck, iPad app developers will have iOS 4.2-tested versions of their applications available for the iPad as soon as the software is available to consumers.
Apple hasn't indicated when the software will be available for download, but it is generally within seven to 10 days from the release of the golden master.