Things have been quiet with the mobile product recently but that’s only because we have been working on some new features that we didn’t want to talk about until we had them running reasonably well on a variety of devices. Well, we have made some great progress and now I’m happy to start talking about it.
What’s the big secret?
So what have we been working on…..? Taking the entire X-Plane 10 Desktop flight model and aircraft systems! That means all of the physics, all of the systems, all of the datarefs, as well as 99.9% of the panel system and instruments*. I cannot emphasize enough how unprecedented this is on a mobile device…and it will be free of course. Read on for specifics…
Flight Model History
Let’s rewind time back to 2007 when the original iPhone was being released. We had about 25MB of memory to work with and a very limited processor. There was absolutely no choice but to prune the flight physics and all of the systems back to the bare minimum. This has been our mobile product’s foundation for the past 9 years…a reasonably good approximation of flight physics and systems that is adequate for mobile devices…but very limiting for us as developers and also a bit limiting for users as well. Lately, we’ve been moving over pieces of the desktop flight model a little bit at a time (for example, Airliners required a better slat and flap system) but it’s time consuming and tedious.
Where we’re headed…
Over the last couple of months we’ve been reorganizing our systems and now have most of the desktop systems running on our mobile product…even on the older devices that we support like the original iPad Mini/iPad 2/iPhone 4s. We’re still actively integrating the systems so it’s not ready for release just yet, but a lot of the work is done.
So what does this mean for users? Archimedes said “Give me a lever and a place to stand and I will move the earth.” The mobile product sharing the flight model and systems with desktop is a HUGE….MASSIVE….LEVER. It means that mobile instantly gets an FAA Approved flight model…the same one that real pilots train on. An instantly improved autopilot, no more bounced landings (unless you fly like Ben…in which case you’ll still bounce ;)) full electrical, hydraulic, engine, prop, fuel, radios, navigation, pressurization, starter, trim and gear systems.
With all of those systems available in their entirety, it means that the beautiful 3D cockpits that our artists have been developing can come to life with interactivity to touch and manipulate all of the same systems that you can on desktop. Start/Shutdown the aircraft the right way, tune all of the radios, operate the full autopilot etc.
This is the symbiotic relationship that we’ve been talking about since the launch of V10 Mobile. Mobile feature development will improve the Desktop product, and Desktop features will trickle down into the Mobile product.
When is this happening?
Soon? I expect much of this to be done and the first update to happen by the spring for iOS and Android. It will not be done in one release but over several.
The release schedule and contents are still not completely concrete at this point but if I were to take a guess, I’d say that the first release will include the complete flight model. This will be an incremental update for end users because while the flight dynamics will change, the interaction will not change much. It will have the same simple 3 button autopilot and minimal interactivity with the 3D cockpit.
The second and subsequent releases will start to expose much of this new system to users. I would expect to see a new 2D autopilot UI that exposes the complexity of the desktop autopilot…heading, altitude, speed, LNAV, VNAV etc. I would also expect that some of the aircraft panels will have been updated with manipulators that allow you to start touching all kinds of buttons and knobs.
With this kind of leverage, we can release new features faster than ever before. I’ll have more details on that specifically when the time is appropriate.