Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Windows Phone 7 Won't Support Multitasking


Microsoft’s upcoming Windows Phone 7 Series shares one trait in common with Apple’s iPhone: It doesn’t support full multitasking.

While the iPhone does allow some limited multitasking (the phone and iPod apps can run in the background) many critics have knocked the iPhone for its inability to run third-party apps in the background. If you want to write an e-mail while listening to music in the Pandora app, for example, you must first quit Pandora. The only way to enable full background processing on an iPhone is to jailbreak (i.e., hack) the device.

For Windows Phone 7 Series, the story is almost exactly the same: The OS can process Microsoft’s core integrated experiences, such as music and phone calls, in the background, but third-party apps cannot run in the background. And just like the iPhone, Windows Phone 7 Series supports push-notifications enabling third-party apps to send updates and status messages to a phone’s home screen even when the actual application is not running in the background.

That’s in marked contrast to Google’s Android and Palm’s WebOS, both of which support extensive multitasking, including allowing third-party apps to run in the background.

Microsoft’s reasons for not supporting full background processing should sound familiar: It drains batteries.

“We do not allow third-party applications running on the phone to execute in the background,” said Charlie Kindel, manager of Microsoft’s Windows Phone App Platform and Developer Experience program, in a phone interview with “We’re poised to support it eventually, but in order to support great battery life and great end-user experience, we’re focusing on the integrated experiences first.”

In the smartphone world, the definition of multitasking has been widely debated. Technically, the iPhone and, soon, Windows Phone 7 Series, do multitask because they process core integrated services in the background. When critics say the iPhone doesn’t support multitasking, they’re thinking of the traditional desktop metaphor that allows multiple apps to run in several windows simultaneously without pause.

Google’s Android OS and Palm’s WebOS both support multitasking in the traditional sense: They allow you to run multiple third-party apps in addition to core integrated services in the background. Though that allows more flexibility, some Palm Pre users have complained about the Pre’s battery life being greatly reduced because of full background processing capability. The same complaint has been made about Android. For both platforms, users must manually disable settings or apps that run in the background by default to maximize battery life.


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