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Mathematica on the iPad

Posted 9 months ago
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The iPad Pro is already way more powerful than a lot of notebooks so it makes a lot of sense now to have a full version of Mathematica running locally instead of just the Wolfram Cloud app. This would also be a good excuse to provide full Metal support so GPUs in the Apple ecosystem would be supported for computation as well and not just graphics.

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I believe that Wolfram Player for iOS has essentially a complete implementation of Mathematica running on iOS. At various WTCs over the years, I have seen Mathematica working on iPads. The main issue is tweaking the UI to handle touch. This issue would be gone with ARM macs.

Wolfram has already implemented Metal for graphics (replacing OpenGL), and I think that it would be possible for a small team to make use of all of Metal for neural networks, and even parallel processing using GPUs. I looked into doing this, and while it is beyond what I can do by myself, it is certainly do-able.

I only use the cloud app occasionally, due to the lag and the crippling of interactive graphics, necessitated by the round trip to the cloud, of course. Not everyone has broadband all the time, so this is not a viable choice for 'serious' work.

Wolfram Research figured prominently in the WWDC that introduced the transition to Intel. Theo Gray and Rob Raguet-Schofield took part. It would be great if Wolfram were able to take part in this (rumored, but quite likely) transition to ARM. Remember that Wolfram was alone in the major CAS platforms who stuck by the Mac in its darkest hour.

My feeling is that if Apple makes the transition from Intel to ARM, Wolfram would have an incentive to deliver Mathematica to iOS, or iPadOS. We already know that it is technically possible, so the only issue would be with licensing and App store policies. Since Wolfram essentially gives away Mathematica for Raspberry Pi, I think that it would make sense to license Mathematica for iPad for non-commercial use. Professional users will still want the extra resources available with a laptop or desktop -- at least I would.

Some might say that Apple is still a minor player in the PC business. However, if you add in the iPad to the MacBooks, iMacs. etc., Apple is now a major player. With Catalyst, developing for macOS and iPadOS is now much easier in the past. It seems to me that Mathematica for iPad makes a lot of sense.

Posted 9 months ago

Indeed. Actually Mathematica for iPad doesn't even have to handle touch necessarily (even though it would be ideal), given that now iPadOS has mouse and trackpad support. Plus the app doesn't have to be free as in the RaspberryPi (a strategy that Wolfram likely adopted for marketing/education purposes). It's mostly about adopting modern APIs provided by the latest versions of iOS and MacOS, something that Wolfram didn't really invest so much in (just as an example the frontend of Mathematica for the Mac became 64bit just recently). Metal also has to be adopted for general computation (neural nets and also Parallelize functions,etc.) and not just for graphics... So if they keep this pace, I'm not very confident in them adopting Catalyst. Let's push!

I agree that the pace of adopting new Apple technologies has slowed -- it too far too long, in my opinion, to make the front end Cocoa and 64 bit, and to dump OpenGL in favor of Metal for graphics. The days are long gone where Apple would introduce new technologies only to abandon them, so no company need fear that efforts to adopt the APIs would be wasted.

Also agree that free isn't necessary, or even desired. Student/hobbyist pricing would be fine. (I have had a commercial license since 1989.)

I also understand that Wolfram is a small company, and that they can't do everything. While I like the new stuff in Wolfram Language, I would like it better if Mathematica could make full use of the hardware I run it on. That includes both my MacBook Pro and my iPad -- if given the chance to run a native Mathematica on iPadOS.

Mathematica on the iPad

I would very much like to have a working version of just the documentation. I enjoy exploring the documentation. It is a form of recreational computational thinking--and sitting at my laptop is what I do for work.

It wouldn't be necessary to have saveable files. Evaluations could have default TimeConstrained and MemoryConstrained.

I believe that my iPad has more than enough storage for the documentation.

I'd pay $100-$200 for a documentation only app.

I'm not sure this will do the trick, but Sidecar works for me. You need an appropriate computer and iPad, of course.

Once you turn on Sidecar, you can drag the Wolfram Documentation window to the iPad. You can use the computer's keyboard to enter stuff, and interact with the mouse. You can also use the keyboard on the iPad -- an icon on the right (by default) brings it up. I haven't tried all the different ways of interacting.

In most respects, it works just like a second monitor, except you can use Apple Pencil to interact with the iPad directly. The scroll bars appear so you can use the pencil to drag them. all the controls work with the Apple Pencil, so it is really nifty.

Right now, there is no way to execute the shift-enter combination using the Apple Pencil. Since Wolfram already has a mechanism to implement the numeric keypad enter key with the extended keyboard, this could be implemented, I think.

If that were possible, then the combination of Sidecar, the iPad and the Apple Pencil would work an allow the content or window on the iPad to be used without recourse to the Mac.

Based on this experience, I would say that a 'native' Mathematica for iPad would work just fine, using the Apple Pencil and the keyboard, without needing to use the overly large keyboard I see sometimes.

------------------ NOTE -------------

The Wolfram Player has the Documentation center already implemented. The downside is that the examples (for Manipulate[] at least) are implemented as short videos, rather than being live. If that meets your needs, then Wolfram has already provided a free solution.

As a 'passive' reader, this would be sufficient. However, now that I see what can be done with Sidecar and the Apple Pencil, it is really barebones. With Sidecar, I can still copy and paste examples, and do everything I can in Mathematica, and still use the pencil to manipulate stuff without using the computer keyboard.

Thanks, George, for the tip on sidecar. I've been using Wolfram Player to look at the documentation. But, I believe the documentation is not being stored locally. In any case, navigating the documentation is very slow and the openers are not responsive.

If the documentation was stored on the ipad, it would be better for "recreational reading". Interactivity would be nice, but necessary (for my purposes at least).

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