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Multitasking in Symbian OS 5.0 (on the S60)  (Source: Maximum PC)

Both the Palm Pre (shown here) and the Symbian OS 5.0 (above) support full multi-tasking. The iPhone does not. That offers some gaming and security benefits for the iPhone, but prevents some useful apps. Full multi-tasking is rumored to be coming with iPhone OS 4.0 this summer.  (Source: TechSource)
Might Apple be cooking up a counter to its competitors by at last bring multi-tasking to its smartphone?

If it can't sue its rival smartphone makers out of existence, it appears that Apple plans to at least catch up to them.

According to 
AppleInsider, Apple will finally be bringing a "full-on solution" to multi-tasking with iPhone OS 4.0 which is set to debut this summer.  Presumably that means that third-party apps will finally be allowed to run in the background on the phone.  The sources were scant on details about how it would remedy performance, battery life, and security issues, but they did say that the multi-tasking would use an interface similar to that in the Mac versions of OS X.

Apple's iPhone is among the best-selling smartphones and is second in market volume only to the incredible successful Blackberries from Research in Motion.  Apple's massive developer community and gigantic collection of apps make a phone that would otherwise be seen as just beneath top hardware offerings seem like the top of the pack.

However, Apple has slipped behind the bleeding edge of the competition, even as its app offerings have flourished.  Its competitors -- Palm, Symbian, Research in Motion, and Google (makers of Android OS) – all support multi-tasking in their smartphone operating systems.  Apple's OS X distribution on the iPhone artificially prevents third-party application backgrounding (multi-tasking), only allowing push notifications as of iPhone OS 3.0.

There have been a few major exceptions.  Currently, the iPhone's phone, SMS, email, iPod, voice recorder, Nike+ apps and a handful of others can run in the background.  This means, for example, that you can use apps and play music at the same time (but only using Apple's built in music player).

Apple has previously stated that backgrounding apps represents a security risk.  The iPhone's OS kills apps when you accept calls or return to the home screen, rather than sending them to the background.  That makes it harder for spyware, adware, or viruses to run on the phone without the user's knowledge.

The security comes at a cost though -- third-party apps that are available at all times (run in the background) like instant messaging, location-aware apps, internet radio, etc. are not able to be supported unless you "jailbreak" your iPhone, running software to hack the OS and remove Apple's restrictions.

One of the big problems is that multi-tasking could hurt gaming on the iPhone if resource management isn't implemented perfectly.  Currently the iPhone rivals the PSP Go and Nintendo DSi as a mobile gaming platform.  Its smartphone rivals though have been unable to muster much gaming success -- titles tend to be limited by either inefficient multi-tasking and/or by requiring the apps to be run by abstraction layers, such as Adobe Flash/Flash Lite, Microsoft Silverlight, or Sun Java/Android Dalvik runtimes.

Despite these shortcomings, many iPhone users have demanded multi-tasking.  Multi-tasking was rumored to be coming both in iPhone OS 2.0 and iPhone OS 3.0, but never came in full form.  Thus its reasonable to be wary about whether iPhone OS 4.0 will truly bring multi-tasking to the table at last.

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RE: for iPad as well?
By melgross on 3/11/2010 12:52:45 PM , Rating: 1
When you consider that netbooks can't actually run most of the apps that can, theoretically, run on them, the iPad doesn't really have much of a limitation there, as the apps that do run, and there will be hundreds of thousands by the end of the year, will run very well.

I've got a Toshiba NB205, with 2GB RAM, and quite frankly, it sucks. It's still one of the fastest netbooks out there, but even browsing isn't really fun.

RE: for iPad as well?
By darkhawk1980 on 3/11/2010 1:26:36 PM , Rating: 1
Sadly, you are sorely mistaken. Your 'netbook' is not one of the fastest by any means....Go get an HP Mini 311. That is a netbook on steroids, and will actually even play games while lasting nearly as long. Quite frankly I have fun playing WoW on it. Everything runs on it that runs on my desktop, not nearly as good, but easily still playable.

The iPad has more of a limitation than the netbooks even do. While netbooks don't have a desktop processor, it is more than capable of doing most tasks, even on the go. The iPad? It's a large ipod. Personally, the best game that someone could make for the ipad, is a picture of a bullseye, so people can senselessly have a place to aim when they beat themselves in the head with it for buying something so useless.

RE: for iPad as well?
By kmmatney on 3/11/2010 10:11:27 PM , Rating: 2
Its the same old tired argument. Sure, a netbook can do anything the iPad can do, and more, but it won't be the same experience. The iPad is meant for sitting on your couch, and browsing the web, watching videos, reading books, playing games, etc... Sure you can do that on a netbook, but I wouldn't want to. Heck, I would rather browse the web with my iphone while sitting on my couch, rather than a netbook. While I can't picture myself using a netbook very much, I can see using a device like the iPad all the time. The LED backlit IPS display on the iPad will blow away any netbook screen - that enough to already make it a better web browser than a netbook, in my book.

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