Multitasking and me

I happened upon this piece earlier, a pleasant aside from all the Apple tablet speculation that’s running rampant at the moment (for the record, if it happens and it’s good and it doesn’t cost a fortune then I’ll probably get one). Apart from the bit where the Apple contact offhandedly refers to the iTablet by name, it’s all about iPhone OS 4.0. All a bit vague, but the interesting bit is point two: ‘“A few new ways” to run applications in the background — multitasking.’

Oh, and then there’s the bit that goes: ‘The update will supposedly be available for only the iPhone 3G and 3GS, but will “put them ahead in the smartphone market because it will make them more like full-fledged computers” more than any other phone to date. Everyone is “really excited.”’

Well that’s fine, as I have a 3GS. Lovely little piece of kit. Not a very good phone, but that doesn’t bother me in the slightest since I don’t use the phone much if I can help it. I bought an iPhone because (a) I took my iPod Touch on holiday last year and got fed up trying to find open wifi, and (b) I was fed up of carrying both the iPod and an actual phone around. And it’s worked out just dandy.

However, at no point have I wished that it could multitask, or that it was a fully-fledged computer. Thinking about it, it already multitasks more than adequately for my liking. I can do other stuff on it while it’s playing music! How cool is that? When I can be bothered to IRC on it, I’d sometimes like to be able to drop out of Colloquy and maybe check Twitter, but it’s honestly not a big deal.

I’m just not that big on multitasking. Granted, in a desktop environment I’ll have lots of software running simultaneously; at work I’m likely to have Outlook, Firefox (with multiple tabs), IE, Word, GIMP 2 (I know), at least one Explorer window, Adobe Reader and probably two instances of Notepad running. And that’s just my desktop machine; to the side is my laptop running Firefox, Tweetdeck, mIRC and either iTunes or WinAmp, depending on whether iTunes is behaving today and not arbitrarily skipping the odd few seconds for no apparent reason.

Damn it. It would seem that I am that big on multitasking; however despite all this software running concurrently, I’m personally focused on one task at a time, even if it means switching between five bits of software to get it done. And for the time being, I don’t need all that multitasking ability on my phone. I’ve seen people moaning about how the iPhone can’t multitask, and I don’t get it. Fabulous though the iPhone is, let the thing multitask freely and what you’re going to get is people moaning that their iPhones keep slowing down and overheating because they’ve left too many apps open.

Apple would be mad to let that happen. I fully reserve the right to be wrong on this, but I don’t see real multitasking being a feature of OS4.0. More likely some clever approximation of limited multitasking that enables you to keep one app running quietly in the background while you look at another. But not proper multitasking.

Not yet, anyway. I have high hopes for phones; for years I’ve been waiting for them to become little all-in-one terminals that can do bloody everything. They’re heading in the right direction but they’re not there yet, and it’s pointless trying to pretend they are. Call it a fully-fledged computer if you want, but it won’t be long before the cracks appear and the conceit unravels embarrassingly.


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