One of the most requested features on the iPhone was the ability to natively share files between the iPhone and a USB or wirelessly connected PC or other device. Third party applications such as AirSharing and DropCopy have arisen to fill this void, but as useful as they are they don't offer the same flexibilty that a full OS integrated filesystem or file sharing system would provide.
Considering Apple's targeting of more complicated tasks, such as word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation development with iWork, it should comes as little surprise that Apple has decided to handle things differently with the iPad.
While "power users" won't likely be satisfied with anything but fully open access to the underlying iPad filesystem, chances are many users will find the iPad's file sharing system satisfying for their needs. Though a few questions still remain (we'll get to those later), and likely will until we see the iPad in the wild, here's how iPad file sharing works.
Each application on the iPad, outside of those who's file syncing is handled by iTunes, will have a documents folder on the iPad where documents can be saved and loaded from. These same folders will be mounted and displayed on your PC for drag-and-drop transfer of files back and forth between your PC and the iPad.
What's more, users can choose to enable wireless file sharing on the iPad. The same drag-and-drop access to files will be available via a wireless connection as when your iPad is connected to your PC via USB.
Sources also indicate, and it makes logical sense, that third party application developers will have access to implement the iPad's file sharing system for their applications.
Here's a couple of important questions that we still don't have answers to:
- Will users be able to create subfolders within an application's documents directory? For instance, Pages or Numbers users might quickly find it frustrating having to store all their files in one large directory.
- Is this same file sharing system coming to the iPhone in the next update to the iPhone OS?
- Will iPads (and perhaps iPhones) be able to wirelessly share documents with eachother without a PC being the intermediary?
Whatever the case may be, most will likely find the iPad's enhanced file sharing system a breath of fresh air, though there will no doubt be "power users" that scoff at the lack of full access to the filesystem. Then again, there's always jailbreaking for those folks.