Perhaps the strongest criticism of the iPhone has been that it doesn’t support multitasking, aside from a few of Apple’s own system level applications that are included on the device and can’t be deleted. Yet the iPhone sells like hotcakes, and Apple has a technical solution […]

Perhaps the strongest criticism of the iPhone has been that it doesn’t support multitasking, aside from a few of Apple’s own system level applications that are included on the device and can’t be deleted. Yet the iPhone sells like hotcakes, and Apple has a technical solution that essentially accomplishes the same thing, called background notifications. If multitasking is so important, as the critics, pundits and technology bloggers will tell you, why have the iPhone and its sibling the iPod touch become two of the most successful electronics devices of all time?

Because the technology press and hardcore technology users have an unprecedented platform from which to speak and be heard. Period. End of story.

Last week’s iPad announcement made this abundantly clear. The technosphere has labeled the iPad an unqualified failure, in large part due to lack of multitasking. News flash: multitasking is overrated. Its not nearly as important to average, everyday users as it is to the people who cover technology for a living. Despite the fact that Palm’s WebOS and Google’s Android both support multitasking, neither has come anywhere close to the success of the iPhone.

With the iPhone and now the iPad, Apple is clearly targeting a mass consumer audience. Many of these users aren’t comfortable with computers. They use them almost because they have, for email and a few other core tasks. Obviously this is changing, as the number of computer and Internet users continues to grow. Its not because computers and the Internet are incredibly easy to use, because they aren’t. In fact, the difficulty in using computers has probably slowed adoption of computing and Internet services into consumers’ daily lives, and part of that complexity comes from multitasking.

Here are three observations that also lead me to believe that multitasking just isn’t that important to most people.

  1. I have facilitated or observed literally thousands of web usability test sessions over the last several years. In watching people use computers and the web, I’ve noticed three very specific behaviors: 1) most people instantly maximize windows to fill their screens and minimize distractions; 2) only the most tech savvy users use alt-tab (Windows) or command-tab (Mac) to switch between apps; and 3) people are far more likely to be confused when multiple windows and apps are open.
  2. There has been a surge in interest in the last few years for desktop applications that take over the screen. This is true of Firefox, for example, which has a full-screen “kiosk” mode, and several word processors designed to let users write without distraction.
  3. Despite pretty regular usage, my wife still struggles with some basic Mac operations related to multitasking, such as closing windows as an attempt to quit an app, switching between apps, not realizing which window is active, etc. While she still uses the Mac, she has moved more and more of her computing activity to her iPhone because she doesn’t have these same issues.

Sure, many of us heavy users like multitasking on our computers and might not feel nearly as productive without it (I say feel because there is evidence to suggest that we aren’t really multitasking but fast switching, and performance suffers when we do). But the majority of people in the world aren’t like us. They want something that is really easy to use and understand, and that provides some level of enjoyment or helps make their lives easier. Apple’s iP products (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad) are designed for these people.

What Apple is really doing is making technology disappear, surfacing content in a very human way. Even if processing power and battery life are currently capable of delivering multitasking, I’m not sure Apple will implement it in the way we think of multitasking today. Perhaps it will allow background processing and easier switching among apps, which get at core user needs, but I expect it will maintain a solotasking approach well into the future of its product designs.

  1. Multitasking is the art of doing several things at once, all of them badly.

    1. Multitasking is the art of being lazy.
      I don’t close anything on my Mac anymore.

      Really does nut bug me that they don’t have it on the IPod Touch.

  2. Really? “Average” people don’t like being able to listen to pandora and send a text?

    So then Apple dumbs its products down because they “care” about you getting confused from all the scary multiple applications at once? Or is this like copy and paste where you gotta stick around for iPad 4gS.

    Or is this another fanboy trying to justify why their product is missing basic simple features?

    1. Agree with Monster. Having to quit out of a game and restart completely just because I wanted to respond to an IM notification is archaic.

      By your logic, this iPad would be best suited for people who have struggle to perform basic operations with a computer, and then is probably not the right tool for anyone who actively seeks out information on blogs such as this.

    2. I agree as well, it is frustrating to have to close out of a program to respond to a text or IM. Especially apps like Pocket Tunes that takes a few minutes to resume.

    3. Do you have an iPhone? I can start compose SMS, quit, write an e-mail (for example), return to composing SMS and it’s still there like I left it. And yes, average people don’t listen to pandora…

    4. These same “average people” who aren’t listening to Pandora also aren’t buying iPhones. The random person who is too stupid to run 2 tasks at once does NOT want something as complex as an iPhone.

  3. I’ve been developing on Apple hardware since the late 80’s and so have experienced non-multitasking OSes right through to the current multi-tasking, multi-threaded OS. Multitasking does matter – especially on a communications device. I use a Nokia N900 and the more I use it the more jealous my iPhone toting colleagues are of my ability to have numerous apps and tasks running simultaneously. That basically leaves the challenge in the hands of the developers – can they develop apps that really don’t need multitasking on the device in order to not render them fundamentally flawed? It might prove to be a hard challenge…

    1. @ Roland & monster

      I agree with the article up to a point. Limiting multi-tasking does make the iPhone/iPodTouch/iPad easier to use for average folks. For those who REALLY want to stream Pandora (or iHeart radio, like me) while surfing or sending email, there is always jailbreaking available. So the heavy tech users have that option. I suspect that Apple will loosen up the limitations on multitasking somewhat in future OS’s as well.

  4. Multitasking is unnecessary when consuming. It becomes necessary when creating.

  5. monster, does the “average” user have Pandora?

    Believe it or not, streaming audio is not yet mainstream. It’ll probably get there, and when it does no doubt there will be a solution from Apple for their devices.

    Patrick, when you say “switching between apps, not realizing which window is active” you’re actually highlighting what I believe is a flaw in the OS X GUI. If you’re using a mouse, there is no need for ‘focus’. It’s an artificial constraint and I was using a GUI OS in the late 80s that recognised this. At least you can now scroll any window with the mouse in OS X. It’s getting there.

    1. im a huge apple fan, and supporter, but it is super annoying closing a game just to respond to an IM, and then having to load up everything again, and by the time you do, another freaking IM.

      and I work around horribly untechsavy people, yet they all know what Pandora is. Maybe not every mother and father is using it, but a large population of the Iphone/Itouch community is, hence why it is always one of the top apps.

  6. I can play music check e-mail and surf the web. How much more do you need?

  7. @ monster. Obviously you don’t get it as a ‘trolling Apple basher’. Like the iPhone, the iPad is a “consumer” lifestyle product. You are just sore that Apple could possibly have another ‘monster’ hit on their hand. BTW – nice article.

  8. great article!! As a power user, I love multitasking, but to really do it properly, even on a desktop, you need to use multiple screens. I like having what I am doing nice and big and in my face because it’s what I need to focus on. The more screens you have the more applications you can run at full screen. I love the iPhone, after switching from my Palm Pre. It’s fast and easy and just works. Once you get too many “cards” open on the Pre it lags A LOT! Multi-tasking is a nice idea; but you realy need multible screens nto urilize it correctly or else you just get clutter, and nothing is worse than a cluttered screen!

    1. Dude,

      you did not own a Pre. Just saying….you did have multiple screens, they rotate around like much of the touchflow technology on the HTCs. There was absolutely no clutter. And quite frankly, multi tasking is nice, like say listening to any number of streaming music apps and typing away at an e-mail or a text, or surfing the web, playing a (silent) game, etc. I’ve never opened more than 3 or 4 apps at a time, and at that point only briefly, and my Pre has never given me a problem. Either way, my boyfriend has an iPhone, which is admittedly a cool piece of technology and for that matter the first one out the door with their kind of capabilities, except that I don’t like Apple’s “everyone is too stupid to be able to do (any number of things) on our computers so you just won’t be able to” attitude. SO damnit, I love my Pre, and the iPad is crap.

  9. Really? No multi-tasking on the iPhone/iPad because not everyone will use it? You really think that’s why?

  10. Go ahead and check out a program called ProSwitcher inspired by Webos cards multitasking for the iPhone. It makes the device that much better…..multitasking is something really simple in my opinion and Apple is dumbing down the products for their next revisionfuture update.

    We were suppose to have the iPod Touch around the time Video arrived, lol – all the pieces were there and it was always an excuse of price vs adoption. Yet Apple makes almost 40% profit every product sold (article noted even here on Om), its all about indoctrinating the buyer and you sir (editor) need to open your eyes. Multitasking will be a neccecity as we bridge the cap in between CE devices and PCs which the iPad will be perfect fit if Apple plays their cards right. For one, Apple is not finished with Iphone OS, it will be much more including Multitasking but from past experiences I can’t see them rushing in on this….but slowly letting it develop….all while gaining a nice penny for R&D.


  11. I’m sure that programmers care a lot about multi-tasking. I don’t, and I even know what “multi-tasking” means. As long as the device does what I need, I’m happy.

  12. What a sadly uniformed read that was!

    The iPod Touch/iPhone ALREADY have had multitasking from day 1 – you can listen to music through the iPod app and do anything else you want. You can also talk on the phone and bring up Safari and email at the same time.

    Problem is Apple decides what can be run as a background process.

    I can’t stream music via Pandora, Last.fm, NPR, Stitcher, and a multitude of other internet radio apps and run a GPS app at the same time on my iPhone in the car – that is a HUGE negative in my book.

    I don’t even care about extra power drain at that point because my iPhone is ALWAYS plugged into my DC power socket.

  13. From the standpoint of a student, multitasking is completely necessary. At any given time doing schoolwork, I have at least 5 apps open, using all of them within cycles of ten minutes. Mail and Adium (for class group communication), any number of iWork apps or TextEdit, Chrome, and iTunes. These are all (excluding iTunes) necessary to getting my work done. Research papers, homework, whatever. I need more than one app open without having to quit another.

    1. We understand multitasking is important to students. Sounds like you should be all that stuff on a laptop/desktop, not a smartphone!

    2. @dan , that is not really multitasking… you are swtiching apps while you listen to music in the background.

    3. @jack how would you define multitasking in relation to this article?

    4. I agree that as a student multitasking is necessary. Specifically when taking notes on a laptop and reading the material on the laptop at the same time. Problem with the lack of multitasking with the ipad is you cannot read a textbook and take notes on the device at the same time, would have to keep switching back and forth.

  14. I totally agree with your article.

    That’s why iPad isn’t a workhorse. It’s made to enjoy media and browse your favorite websites and some lightweight gaming.

    And for this purpose I don’t need multitasking! quite the opposite! When I browse the web on my sofa at home – I’d rather take the iPhone instead of my macbook. Its a nicer approach to browse the web.

    With MobileMe I’m always notified when a new message arrives – and the iTunes remote does a good job controlling my macbooks iTunes library and streams, which plays music via airport express on the hifi system…

  15. I’m going to admit ignorance here, so please correct me if I’m wrong on what I see on the multitasking, but the lack of is what killed my enthusiasm for the iPad. I was looking to replace my netbook, which is not used for anything too productive, mostly slacking off at work.

    I typically will run a music player, an IM app (which also checks my email and twitter for updates) and a browser. Can I have all of these things running on the iPad? It’s not like I’m asking for virtual desktops to run photoshop on here, this is pretty basic stuff. You can use the argument that non-tech old people get flustered with doing more than one task, but I have a strong feeling the entire device is going to intimidate the hell out of those people.

    Your average internet using 20-30something does twitter, does facebook, looks at websites, has music on, has instant messenger up…..these aren’t crazy tasks, and the impression i’m getting is that it would not be possible on the iPad. This is a huge problem.

    The point where the original author seems to get confused is comparing this device to a phone. These limitations are not that big of a deal in a phone….but this device is not a phone. It’s a computing device. It doesn’t fit in my pocket, it requires me carry around a case and everything else just like a laptop does. If it can’t replace my netbook, why would I carry it around? I’m willing to forgive the lack of keyboard, or a USB port to plug in my iPod classic with all of my music on it so I can play my music….but the fact that basically I can browse on it and nothing else unless I want to kill the browser? Sweet computer, bro. Even my mom wants to IM/chat with people while browsing.

  16. I think multitasking means different things for different people. I think we eventually do a single task at a time. I think if the individual applications are opened back to the same state it was closed, I think that will address a lot of daily usage frustrations. I think the background notifications which are time based events (calendar, reminders, alerts) need to improve from their current form of implementation.

    1. The definition of multitasking on a computer is very straightforward. It means running multiple programs at the same time. Moreover, it is necessary. Even though you may focus on one program at a time, nearly all computer tasks require the usage of multiple programs. If you are writing a paper, for example, it is usually necessary to have a browser and word processor open at the same time. This is so you can refer to the text as you type.

      Can you imagine having to flip between applications as you type? What a horrific waste of time and a hit to productivity. The alternative is to print the source, which is an enormous waste of paper; simply because Apple is too asinine to allow more than one app at a time.

      Make no mistake, the lack of computer multitasking is an ENORMOUS backwards step.

  17. Pat, while I don’t disagree that the average user is likely to not require multi-tasking, there is a sizable minority, such as myself, who would find it helpful. Also, when you are working on a relatively small screen as found with the iPhone, the lack of multi-tasking is less of an issue.

    However, as the work area (screen) becomes larger, the ability to carry on an iChat while surfing the web, reading email or navigating through iTunes becomes more important.

    While Apple, Jobs in particular, has been good at knowing what is really important – remember when they killed off the fire wire port – I think the iPad and perhaps the iPhone should offer the option of multi-tasking for those of us who find it useful.

  18. If Apple would just release some sort of development kit to allow SOME applications to do SOME activities in the background it would solve this problem. Example. Allow Pandora to scale itself down and only allow the output of audio so the user can quit the program, save some memory, but still listen to music in the background just like the iPod app does. Also if Apple would get off it’s ass and release an iChat for iPhone that would solve the need for having backgrounding on for chat applications (assuming Apple allows certain processes to run in the background and integrates iChat into the OS better).

    I agree that full on multitasking is overrated as 99% of users won’t ever need more than one or two applications open at any one time. But it would be nice to be able to do some multitasking, even if it is limited. Having 10 applications open like WebOS users seem to think is necessary, is stupid. But having one or two applications, a chat app, a music app or something like that is more than a reasonable expectation.

  19. This post is what I have come to expect from the devoted Steve Jobs followers. “If Steve says we don’t need it, we don’t!!”.

    The fact remains that multitasking on this type of device is a must. I agree that in a phone it is less of a requiremement but for a device that was billed as a productivity device, having no multitasking is just lazy.

    1. Listen to yourself. Patrick actually gave some arguments for why he thinks we don’t need it. And then you go and say “it’s a must”. So what, we’re bowing to the wrong Steve? It should be you?

  20. The next version of the OS will address some of these issues. The notification system is due for an overhaul. Apple is well aware of limitations and prefers not to just bolt on fixes and features. They are very good at making new functionality work in way that doesn’t disrupt old methods.

    Small screens are lousy for window-based GUI. The design paradigm with the iPhone and iPad are a single-task, single-focused interface. The whole screen becomes the workspace, which enhances usability and efficiency.

    I read an article today, that backs up what I’ve always believed to be Apple’s next logical step in “backgrounding” (the first being push notifications), and that is to build in a Dashboard like layer where widgets can live and run, even in the background. Webkit is pretty much always on in the OS anyway, widgets are nothing more than Webkit based applets, made up using CSS, HTML and Javascript. With a simple gesture, the widgets fly in and out of view.

    This doesn’t completely solve multitasking limitations, but it does offer another avenue for simple tasks, including music streaming for the net.

  21. I cannot work without multi-tasking and to diss it is going beyond being a fan to a blind fanatic… The answer is then to not buy the ipad if you do multi-tasking.

  22. If the iPad is a “consumer” device, then why does it have iWork?

    How do I work on a document in Pages while checking it against my assignment? I guess I’l just go into Evernote and print it off… wait, what?

    1. Err, have you tried that task yet? Didn’t think so.

      My guess would be iWork would remember state so you could just quit, go to Evernote or whatever, then return. No big deal.

    2. @Allister – No big deal until you realize that 15 seconds to switch from Safari to iWork would have been near instant had there been multitasking.

    3. @MIke Uh…have you actually use an iPad yet? None of us know how fast those apps open on the iPad, so I don’t get your 15 seconds comment…

    4. So you have tried it?

    5. @Jeffrey – I was estimating based off what I currently experience with Beejive… that number could vary between applications and what you’re doing in that application.

      My point is that there’s going to be a noticeable wait between switching apps — not a good user experience. IMing and browsing the web is going to be annoying compared to a multitask environment (as it already is on the iPhone).

    6. Sometimes it takes me over a minute to switch apps on my Core2 Duo iMac. Why? Because I’m overloading it beyond the design limit. It’s only got 2Gb of RAM, but I run Firefox with dozens of tabs, Adium, Tweetie and Skype as a minimum. Then I have Lightroom open for a day or two while I work through processing my photos, then I need to fire up Photoshop to do some work on some web graphics. It’s slow and horrible. But it is most definitely ‘full’ multitasking.

    7. @Allister — How about this, before you switch to any other application on your iMac, you close the program you’re currently using, then open the new one.

      You will likely never run out of memory again, but I guarantee if you’ll want multitasking back, even if it does get a bit slow when *you* overload the system.

    8. Actually my brother works exactly like that and swears by it. You’re right I wouldn’t like it. But my point is that maybe the iPad isn’t designed to multitask in the general sense. Just like my iMac isn’t designed to cope with the load I give it.

      I’m still at a loss to why everyone thinks this device should behave like one they already have. That’s not what it was designed for!

    9. What Mike is saying. If the iPad has iWork, it’s a productivity tool, but there’s nothing productive about five seconds minimum just to switch apps. I’m not even expecting to have them side by side at 1024×768 (even if that was perfectly fine15 years ago).

  23. Translation: Mac products are for people who are either old or stupid.

    Thanks for boiling it down so well.

    Personally I think Apple restricts multitasking simply to avoid having dumb people complain about poor battery use after running 10 apps at the same time. Chances are there are a lot of really stupid people out there who won’t realize the strain running multiple apps could have on their device, so rather than educate those folks, Apple’s decided to just remove the option entirely.

    Bottom line: when I pay 400 bucks for a device, I’m gonna use it any damn way I want to. If I want to stir my coffee with it, then that’s what I’ll do. Apple’s job is to make the technology available, not to tell us how to use it. We’ll decide what we do with the items we purchase, thanks.

    Regardless, I have zero doubt that eventually, Apple will allow at least limited multitasking. They’re going to have to if they want to keep up with the marketplace. Unless they’re making devices strictly for grandma, they’re going to have to cave in at least slightly to consumer demand. And the demand is coming, believe me. Once upon a time, cars didn’t come with seatbelts. When the first models were introduced with seatbelts, consumer demand grew to the point where eventually every car had them. Same thing will happen with multitasking. It’s inevitable. Even dumb ol’ grandma may want to do more than 2 things at once one day.

    1. “Mac products are for people who are either old or stupid”

      So PC people are rich and smart???


  24. “Apple’s job is to make the technology available, not to tell us how to use it.”

    Actually no. Apple’s job is to make money for its shareholders and they’re doing fine job of it from what I can see. If you don’t want to line those shareholders’ pockets, no-one is forcing you to.

    1. What a stupid comment. Making money for shareholders is synonymous with making products that appeal to their intended audience. The negative response to this product (which the Apple PR corps otherwise known as the Apple blogs are trying to repress) is a very clear indicator that it is considered an overhyped piece of crap. This version may not bomb (thanks to the billions in free publicity Apple has received due to press shills), but I am not so sure about future releases.

    2. It’s called building a better mouse trap.

      So far Google and MS are in the process of removing their fingers from their ill built and over priced mouse traps(Zune/Nexus).


    3. Rob, do you not remember all the negative stuff about iPhone, iPod Touch, and each new version that came out? Granted it may not have been as widespread as for the (as yet unreleased) iPad, but ‘everyone’ STILL wants multitasking on the iPhone. And yet Apple are selling many millions of these devices. And making money.

      And from what I can see, most of the complaints revolve around the device not being what each individual wanted. If you put all the views together, everything and nothing is perfect about this device.

    4. Again, the question I’ve asked repeatedly and nobody can seem to answer is what user this device is intended for.

      Non-savvy internet user? They have a computer, no need to replace it with some fancy touch screen device.
      Power user? The device lacks functionality, and requires yet another carrying case beyond their existing laptop/phone.

      This device will sell to hardcore Apple fans with the disposable income to have a device like this just sort of sitting around the house for couch browsing when they don’t want to cruise over to their iMac, and to a lesser extend the kind of people who carried a MacBook Air…people who value aesthetics enough that they will pay big money AND carry around yet another device just for the novelty of it.

      This device is NOT the iPod, or the iPhone. The iPod took existing technology and put it into a small, sleek, easy to use package. The iPhone really pushed the boundaries of what phones are capable of, and helped lead the market into consumer smartphone adoption.

      The iPad is a novelty gadget that isn’t sophisticated enough to replace anything you currently own, and thus will be delegated to people who can afford that much money on a novelty. As an example, look at the MacBook Air. It came out, it didn’t change the world. I’m sure a bunch of people bought them.

      If I’m carrying around a phone and a laptop, can the iPad replace either? No. It can’t even replace a netbook. If I’m the type who doesn’t want to carry a computer with me, then would I carry around the 10″ tablet? It’s not exactly gonna fit into a pocket/purse.

      I’ve seen this “trying to make it fit your current thinking” because yeah, people all have existing lives this device has to fit into. The only people that are going to make their life fit this device are hardcore gadget fiends and macheads. Not exactly a world changer here.

  25. Henk Duivendrecht Wednesday, February 3, 2010

    I guess the main reason that Apple can’t allow third party apps to multitask is that the stability of the OS can no longer be guaranteed. What if you open 10 apps at a time? What if 2 of those are CPU-intensive? How do you switch between active apps? I guess the OS just isn’t prepared for real multitasking.

    Some readers say that the average consumer doesn’t need multitasking, but there are exceptions: Skype or Chat apps are very unpractical when you can only have them open as a single app.

    And don’t forget it’s Apple who showed iWork on the iPad, which clearly suggests that they DO want you to be productive on your pad and not just watch movies and photos.

    1. “the stability of the OS can no longer be guaranteed”

      Henk, this is not a Toyota.

      Apple just wants it clean and simple.

  26. So apple apple the “hardcore” users? then I will leave apple. back to PC’s!… nah just kidding, but if this continues to other apple devices meaby i will… i hope not. For now a huge “NO” to the iPad T_T

    Those who say “i don’t need multitasking” it’s because they don’t know what it’s multitasking, or they don’t see the benefits of it.

    (bad english I know)

  27. It’s important to point out that on a screen this size, you probably want a bit more multitasking than is available on an iphone/ipod touch, though not necessarily the full effect as on a desktop os. perhaps background email, instant messaging, web browsing. Pandora and other similar music apps have the same functionality as the ipod app, so i don’t see reason why they shouldn’t allow it on the basis of this article.

  28. I agree with this article. I multitask all the time on my laptop and computer at home. The only time single-tasking on my iPhone has bothered me was when I wanted to listen to TWIT while doing other things on my phone. But I don’t really think that is worth crying over.

    I am quite certain Apple will add multitasking to the iPhone OS. Actually, I am willing to bet a lot of money that it is a major feature of OS 4.0. I’m also quite certain they didn’t introduce it with the iPad because they wanted to announce all the 4.0 updates together in March or April. They have to be more strategic now given the competition. It makes more sense for them to announce all major new features as late as possible to give competitors as little time as possible to react.

    Last year’s OS preview event was March 17. Is it a coincidence that the iPad is coming out late that month? Scott Forstall will take the stage, go over all the new features and say, “This update will be available in June for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.”

  29. I think you’re just trying to justify the iPad’s inability to multi-task with applications downloaded from the app store. If Apple had included it, there would be a post applauding it.

    I keep saying out loud, the iPad isn’t for us! It’s for the rest of us, those that don’t read the apple blog. Those that do read TAB will justify buying one but it’s for our parents and non-techie friends. So, for them, multitasking isn’t really something that should be a feature and then you risk getting that sunday morning phone call that the thing is running too slow.

    “grandma, open process viewer and close notepad, pandora, aim, tweetie and facebook.”

    “oh it’s much faster now”

    we know that. our non-techie friends don’t

  30. Lisent to music… i have a stereo. Write some text… i have a typewriter, read an e-book… I HAVE THE BOOK… the beaty of digital devices is that you can do all of this thing at a time, if you can’t do that go back to the manual and read it go to some basic computing clases, Multitask necesary! USB necesary! i feel sad about the iPad…

  31. Textbook Publishers Prepare for iPad, Murdoch Favors High Prices Wednesday, February 3, 2010

    [...] established and understood by millions of iPhone or iPod Touch owners. Some critics decry a lack of multitasking and expansion; but consider the far more powerful reality that the iPad just happens to be the [...]

  32. I still find it funny that people keep name checking the iPod and iPhone saying that multitasking isn’t needed. Of course not, on those devices.

    But reality:
    – the iPad isn’t a phone. You aren’t going to be texting or calling people with it. So you need to be able to do more of everything else.
    – the iPad is 10″ wide. This isn’t an MP3 player you throw in your pocket and listen to music on. It’s a device that plans on being your single point of focus.

    A mobile phone or an mp3 player are inherently multi tasking devices. You use them while walking to work, while at the gym, in your car, etc. etc. etc. You don’t need the device itself to do as much because you’re already using the device while doing something else.

    The iPad will not be in your pocket on the way to work. You will not be using it while doing anything else, since it’s going to require 2 hands to hold/use the thing. Add to this the valid point that a 10″ screen makes multitasking a lot more practical than a 3″ screen, and it completely hamstrings the device.

    It’s an iPod that’s too big to be used as an iPod, an iPhone that isn’t a phone, and a computer that is severely limited compared to other computers (in the same price range, mind you). Apple was a hair away from creating a premium alternative to the netbook, but instead they phoned it in with a device that had real potential.

    1. It’s also not a laptop or netbook. Just because it is ‘practical’ (says you) to have multitasking doesn’t mean it has to have it or that it is ‘needed’.

      I think people are projecting their expectations of the old world onto a new world device. Also, since when has 1024×768 been ‘big’ in screen size? I struggle to work in the 1680×1050 of my iMac.

      I’m seriously considering buying an iPad instead of replacing my 2007 iMac with a 2010 one. I.e. keep the iMac and shift some of my activities to the iPad, leaving less load on the iMac (one of the main reasons for wanting an upgrade before now). For a decent iPad model I’ll still be reducing my planned outlay by 75%.

    2. I’m just pondering the expected use. You’re planning on carrying it with you to use as well as your laptop and phone? So basically, it’s a second laptop you need to carry around to do some things while doing other tasks on your laptop and making calls on your phone?

      Do you really see these same “mainstream” people that are being mentioned up above carrying this as a SECOND laptop?

      Also, how is the device not a netbook? A lower-cost, lower-power device that can be used for browsing and multimedia? I don’t care what you brand it, this device is competing with a netbook, and it’s expected use situation is going to be comparable for, well, everyone.

      Nobody needs an iPod that’s too big to fit in their pocket. When you’re moving up to a device that needs it’s own dedicated carrying case and power supply, you’re going to need to be able to replace the functions of other devices.

      I’m not sure if you’ve been following the tech industry for the last 20 or so years, but convergence is where it’s at. You want to be able to get more of your functionality in the same device. This is why the iPhone is popular…it’s a phone that also plays your MP3s and has apps and a web browser.

      Unfortunately, this device does less than an iPhone, and less than a laptop. It’s a step backwards in convergence and offers no clear advantage outside of aesthetics.

      I’m sure people will buy it…people bought the MacBook Air, even though it wasn’t really providing much over the average laptop (in fact, less) and cost a lot more. But unless Apple makes this thing a lot more usable, it’s going to be a neat novelty for gadget hounds with a lot of money and an affinity for glowing Apple logos.

      At this size and price point, you need to be able to replace the functionality of a laptop that isn’t being used for business. If you can’t, this device is just ANOTHER gadget to throw in your bag. Fine if you’re a guy who likes carrying thousands of dollars worth of various electronics every day, not so fine if you’re the rest of the world.

      Something tells me the market for “guys who want to carry around 2 laptops and a cell phone” is pretty small.

    3. I would be replacing some of the use of an iMac. I don’t carry my iMac around with me. I don’t own a laptop. So no, it isn’t a second laptop. And it won’t replace my phone either, seeing as it isn’t actually a phone.

      As for convergence. Uh huh. Right. And we’re all using the cloud now too, right? And we have personal jetpacks and our cars fly.

      I have an iPhone and a real camera. I laugh when people want a 5Mpix+ sensor on a cellphone. There’s no point. 3Mpix is more than enough to produce 7×5 prints or view on a screen. Then there’s the lens – or lack of one. My iPhone lens is almost always too wide or to narrow for anything I’d like to take a picture of. Adding a music (even video) player into a phone is fine because the technology required to do that is tiny, cheap and long tested – you can produce better audio than most can appreciate for a few dollars worth of components. Other than that type of scenario, I don’t see convergence doing much for us in the immediate future. I don’t see the point in devices that are capable of lots but good at nothing.

      I think the demographic of laptop users who are power users (and therefore desperately need multitasking) is perfectly capable of avoiding this device as inappropriate. Leaving the masses to just use it.

    4. The fact is, convergence is the only reason the iPhone is a good/popular product. Take away the browser, the keyboard, the MP3 player, and what do you have? Just a phone. Convergence is what is SELLING these devices. People want to be able to do more tasks with one device. “the masses” DO NOT want to carry around a ton of shit. Will it replace your SLR? No. Is it fine for snapping a picture of your friend being goofy at a party? Yep. Check out how many people’s facebook photos are camera phone. “The masses” don’t always want or need a full digital camera, only “power users” like yourself.

      So since this is a device for “the masses”, why does my mom need one? My mom will use her PC at home to browse websites, listen to music and chat with her friends online. She doesn’t need to go look cool at the coffee shop, she doesn’t even really need a computer when she leaves the house. So why would she spend $500+ on something that can’t replace her home PC?

      The “i only check my e-mail” users aren’t going to want to type on a touchscreen, or upgrade their ancient WinXP machine that is “good enough”. Why should they upgrade to this device?

      Again, it’s a device without a market segment. It’s too big to use as a PMP, it’s not functional enough to replace a full laptop.

      Since you think the “power user” is not a target demo for this, I’d love to see your sales pitch as to why the average person would want to drop $500 on this device. If you’re not a gadget head, if you’re not trying to look cool in the college or coffee shop, if you’re just someone trying to chat, listen to music and browse your facebook and twitter, how does this device make your life easier than what you currently have?

    5. I think we’re both trying to rationalise our views, when neither of us (nor anyone else) really appreciates what this device will do to the market – only time will tell. If anyone else released this device I’d probably not think about buying one. But because it’s Apple I took a closer look and I like what I see. And take a look at the iPod Touch. No device like it existed before and they’ve sold bazillions of them. That’s a case of divergence too. They took the phone (and a few other pieces) out of the iPhone.

      Finally, consider statements like this:
      “We did not appreciate what role the [iPod] touch would play when Apple introduced it in September 2007,” said Needham & Co. analyst Charles Wolf. “But it’s now clear that the touch has emerged as a viable game-playing platform.”

      Who knows what the iPad will precipitate.

  33. I totally agree that mutli-tasking is a non-issue with the iPad. I’ve been in PC support for years and have dealt with many friends and family and the vast majority of them, I would guess 90%, don’t even know what multi-tasking is and would care less if the iPad didn’t have it. Many of them don’t even understand what the buttons on the windows taskbar are for. Or when I talk about alt-tab they look like a deer in the headlights. They can’t grasp the concept of open windows behind other windows.

    These people will buy the iPad in droves. This thing is going to be a runaway success and sell like crazy. Why? Because it’s cool, it’s simple, it’s inexpensive and does everything that the average person uses a computer for.

  34. Patrick, are you stating that the iPhone does not multitask or are you stating that it does, but not what you want.

    “Perhaps the strongest criticism of the iPhone has been that it doesn’t support multitasking, aside from a few of Apple’s own system level applications that are included on the device and can’t be deleted.”

    If I surf the web with Safari and here my music with iPod, is my iPhone multitasking? The answer is,Yes!!! Your statement is incorrect; most of you have trouble performing one task efficiently and it’s a disaster when you do two. How many people do you wish you could slap who are talking on their phone while either walking or driving and fail at that. Patrick, Patrick stop being a hater play with your other gadgets and leave the apple ones to us, the future. Later Hater

  35. Textbook Publishers Prepare for iPad, Murdoch Favors High Prices « Tech News Wednesday, February 3, 2010

    [...] established and understood by millions of iPhone or iPod Touch owners. Some critics decry a lack of multitasking and expansion; but consider the far more powerful reality that the iPad just happens to be the [...]

  36. Apple will release limited backgrounding in OS 4.0. For example, Pandora can play music in the background (and the Pandora icon will be labeled as running) or some flickr-app can upload pictures in the background, notify you when it’s finished and quit. IM-apps can be connected in the background and notify you of new messages, quit if inactive for x minutes and push will take over from there. Something like that. You will not see any kind of windows, but maybe an easier way to switch between apps.

    As for students, there already exists book-apps with note taking capabilities for the iPhone. With the introduction of shared space these notes can be saved to that space and you can continue editing them in Pages.

    Well, my prediction at least.

  37. Textbook Publishers Prepare for iPad, Murdoch Favors High Prices | Bookbee Wednesday, February 3, 2010

    [...] established and understood by millions of iPhone or iPod Touch owners. Some critics decry a lack of multitasking and expansion; but consider the far more powerful reality that the iPad just happens to be the [...]

  38. I’m a student and I wish I could be able to switch from a textbook, to taking notes, to answer an IM without closing an app, starting another one, close it, open another one, etc. Sorry but this article makes no sense except for a fan boy trying to convince others something good is bad because your toy doesn’t have it.

    1. It’s *opinion*. It makes perfect sense. Well, at least as much sense as your argument. What, precisely, is the difference between ‘closing one application and opening another’ and ‘switching from one application to another’? And what makes the former so taboo? Is it speed? Because no-one here can tell you if your iPad will be quicker at the former than your netbook/laptop/desktop is at the latter.

      When you’re older you’ll learn that thinking outside the box is the only way to stay sane. I’m over 40 and still being surprised by things I thought I knew well.

      I don’t know if you’re a student of IT, but if so, do they teach you WHY things are the way they are today and what came before?

  39. I’m not sure if people really need multitasking on the iPad since studies show drivers have difficulty using their cell phones while driving. We like to think of ourselves as being more effective with the ability to multitask, but we’re probably just diluting our concentration. But I can see an advantage to be able to switch rapidly from application to application.

    1. Irrelevant comparison. You compare human multitasking with device multitasking, they are not the same thing. Sometimes your device must do several things at once so that you can do a single task. For example, say you are working on a paper. You will likely need to have a browser open (so that you can refer to a reference) and a word processor open (so that you can write your paper). Ideally, they should be open on the same screen.

      You are singletasking, your computer, on the other hand is multitasking.

      Or lets say you need to compare the current sales figures to last months. Again, the most productive way is to have both documents open on the same window. As structured, iPad does not allow you to do this. This is an enormous hit to productivity.

      And both of these use scenarios are very plausible for the iPad. The lack of real multitasking is a serious design flaw. There is no other explanation.

  40. Uh oh. Moderation filters are suddenly in play for me (reply to dubabay). What sets that off?

  41. Wer braucht schon Multitasking? « /dev/random Thursday, February 4, 2010

    [...] gern als Apple Fan abstempeln lasse (ja ich finde viele Apple Produkte wirklich sehr brauchbar) übertreiben es die “wirklichen” Fanboys leider viel zu oft mit ihrer Götzenverehrung. “Multitasking is Overrated” tönt es da aus [...]

  42. The Iphone and ipad do multitasking obviously, that’s how you can listen to music while doing other things. The underlying o/s is the same and supports it.
    The issue is how much multitasking to allow apps to do. And if state is saved, there might be no difference in starting an app than in switching to an already running app. The important thing is the feel for the user. Here, it would help if it was easy to switch between recently used apps so you don’t. have to find them again.
    The only situation this wouldn’t be good enough for us when you want to jeep an eye on info feeds (twitter, Im) while doing something else. It might be handy in that case to have some transparent overlay like the dashboard as mentioned above.
    I think a bigger priority would be to allow apps to share information better.

  43. I find that in using my iPhone I only miss a multitasking capability under certain circumstances, but those circumstances can be extremely frustrating!
    For instance I have Sygic turn-by-turn nav software that I use to guide me when I don’t know the way to a meeting. While happily driving along I suddenly get a call and Sygic is terminated as the phone switches to the the incoming call. While I take the call (on handsfree) I have no visual or audio clues as to where I am going and so am likely to miss a turn. Now, I can kind of get around this by restarting sygic while still on the call as the call will “multitask” in the background if it is running first and you start up another app second, but this means taking hands off the wheel to try to go through the process of starting the app back up – not something that I really want to have to do, or should have to do if some level of 3rd party multitasking was available.

    Now, for other apps multitasking is not something I am worried about. I am quite happy for Stanza to be a single tasking app. When it is not the main thing on my screen I couldn’t read the book anyway and with accurate state preservation I get back to where I was in my book instantly if I have to switch away and back to the app. No need for multitasking there, and in fact I wouldn’t want that app hanging around in the background.
    I personally think that multitasking should be available to be used for real time apps (eg. streaming, voip phone, GPS navigation apps, etc). Other apps should be discouraged from using multitasking unnecessarily.

    My biggest gripe against Apple with this sort of thing is that whole attitude of “we know best what is good for you”. It still doesn’t stop me from buying Apple products but it is something that gets under my skin and would seriously cause me to look elsewhere if only someone could bring out comparable products that had interfaces that worked as well.

    Anyway, multitasking for the iPad, while frustrating in the current lack, is at least potentially an upgradeable feature on the Gen 1 iPad. What frustrates me more is the lack of hardware components like the camera that I won’t be able to added latter if I purchase the first gen iPad. And I do and would use a camera for video conferencing. I talk regularly with my parents via skype and would love to be able to relax on the lounge with the iPad and video conf from that device from the comfort of my lounge. I see video conferencing as part of the whole multimedia experience that the iPad seems to be aimed at and the lack of the camera (such a small, inexpensive hardware item) is a very frustrating lack in my epectations of the product.

  44. Sounds a bit condescending to me. Oh sure, we tech heavy users do need multitaskting, but al those ‘average’ people do not.

    Furthermore, why not include it as an option. It cannot be that hard to program. O wait, ‘options’, that is another thing ‘average people’ do not understand.

    1. I don’t think it’s condescending at all. It’s simply reality. The iPad is not targeted at tech heavy users. Besides, we know very little about what the final features are going to be at launch.

  45. Will the iPad Kill the Laptop Star? Thursday, February 4, 2010

    [...] has a point, at least in that while web workers and other power or semi-power users who require multitasking capability, flexible input options, graphics and video editing power, and so forth will be buying [...]

  46. Will the iPad Kill the Laptop Star? « Apple News Daily Thursday, February 4, 2010

    [...] has a point, at least in that while web workers and other power or semi-power users who require multitasking capability, flexible input options, graphics and video editing power, and so forth will be buying [...]

  47. Hey, you, multitasker beings, news for you: I don’t want my TV be more “multitasking” that it is, nor my iPhone. I have pleeeeeeeeenty of multitasking devices on my desks, home, office, everywhere, and they make me very happy. As happy as my iPhone makes me, actually. Thanks you very much.

    More news for you: iPhone is successful as it is. Period. Your arrogance borders ridicule-ness pretending to know better how to “modify” a —successful— product to be better for the masses.

    Oh! You didn’t know this is a mass product and you’re not in that crowd? There you go! That’s where you problem in understanding this product lies!

    For you there are the other ones to complete your super multitasking, ultra-geeky, full of intricate screen or whatever, devices. There, buy them.

    With all due respect,
    An average consumer. (Yeah, go ahead, call me fanboy. It won’t hurt me as it hurts you. :-) )

    1. Or as I stated above, the iPhone is ok without multitasking, but it’s a complete failure once you have a device that’s 5x the size and NOT A PHONE

  48. At the risk of being blunt, if multitasking is too complicated for someone, he/she should take a remedial course in using the Internet/computers. The majority of us shouldn’t be punished with solotasking for the benefit of a few computer-illiterate people.

    1. Actually, the exact opposite is the case. The vast majority of the target audience for the iPad are those who we would classify as computer-illiterate. I support many friends and family and workers on PCs and Macs, and very few of them even know how to alt-tab. Many of them have been using computers for years. There is a small percentage of users who will be annoyed that they can’t multitask, but most won’t know the difference.

  49. iPad: How to judge the value of a tool (or why multitasking has its place) – Targuman Thursday, February 4, 2010

    [...] along those lines @jweaks pointed out a post on The Apple Blog that makes just that point, “Multitasking is Overrated.” I thought I would take just a few paragraphs to use multitasking as an example of how I [...]

  50. Here’s a thought. If slightly more than 50% of Macs sold are laptops, then slightly less than 50% of us have a desktop and no laptop. The reason I’ve never bought a laptop is because they simply don’t offer the power and flexibility (see the parallel here!?!?) that I need in my computing today, and I cannot afford both a desktop and a laptop.

    But I DO sometimes long after the portability factor. Now, with the iPad, I can afford both the desktop AND a portable. I have my über-flexible, singing, dancing, multitasking, (crashing,) power desktop for when I need it, and a lightweight but remarkably capable portable device that doesn’t cost the same as the desktop. The top-of-the-range iPad is less than the cheapest laptop. Brilliant.

    So all of you who own laptops, please leave the conversation. You’re not the target audience. ;-)

  51. iTablet – response to Apple’s iPad – Page 2 – DesignersTalk Thursday, February 11, 2010

    [...] have to see how that pans out. Here's an interesting veiws on it (albeit from apple die-hards): Multitasking is Overrated Daring Fireball: One App at a Time It still nags at me though. __________________ DA gallery [...]

  52. I’ve written an article about iPad and we had a discussion with my readers about the fact it’s not multitasking and how bad/good it is:


    I think it’s really good and the approach Apple is making is very cool and makes computing very approachable.

    Great Article Patrick!

  53. 6 Features to Expect in iPhone OS 4.0 Monday, April 5, 2010

    [...] iPad as a potential laptop replacement, multitasking with non-Apple software titles is desirable (not everyone, of course, but for certain people). My own blogging activities would be far easier on the iPad if [...]

  54. iPhone ‘OS 4′ 달라진 점(예상) « iSooPark's Blog Monday, April 5, 2010

    [...] iPad as a potential laptop replacement, multitasking with non-Apple software titles is desirable (not everyone, of course, but for certain people). My own blogging activities would be far easier on the iPad if [...]

  55. I think you’re wrong about the average user and multi-tasking.

    People who are tech terrible but keyboard friendly use ALT-TAB on PCs constantly. I know this from training over a thousand users in office productivity and internet software in three languages and on two continents.

    Secretaries and anyone who types well tend to use keystrokes.

    ALT-TAB is not the only way to switch between apps. People who prefer to click everything still switch between apps. It’s the very rare person who quits every app on a desktop machine to open another app.

    People tend to maximize windows because they want to see all the material. Many web sites look scrunched with smaller windows. This doesn’t speak meaningfully to whether or not multi-tasking is useful or expected to the average user.

    Your wife (or your mom) is not an example of the average user any more than you are. Very techy people often pair up (or are descended) from people who are their polar tech opposites, just as rock stars tend not to date other rock stars or be descended from another rock star.

  56. I Want My, I Want My iPhone OS 4 Wednesday, April 7, 2010

    [...] I’ve said before that I think multitasking is overrated, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want it. Support at some level for 3rd-party [...]

  57. What Are iPhone OS 4.0 Features? » Free Professional Insight, Prices, Reviews, Pros, Cons, Tips, and Suggestions » Apple » Insightlopedia – Real Insight for Real People Wednesday, April 7, 2010

    [...] iPad as a potential laptop replacement, multitasking with non-Apple software titles is desirable (not everyone, of course, but for certain people). My own blogging activities would be far easier on the iPad if [...]

  58. I Want My, I Want My iPhone OS 4 | WizzBoom! Thursday, April 8, 2010

    [...] I’ve said before that I think multitasking is overrated, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want [...]

  59. What a foolish article. Imagine using your phone for GPS when a phone call comes in. Oops… Sorry.

  60. People arguing against Multitasking because they’re happy with what they have is….crazy. They’ve never experienced it, so how could they possibly know what they’re missing.

    Since I’m posting a few months from now, I bet $100 the same pro-appleites are now singing multitasking’s praises.

    Right? Am I right??

  61. Dumbest article ever written, because Apple devices can’t multitask you pronounce it overrated. You’re a fucking moron fanboy.

  62. Perusing these comments, I feel like I’m delving into a mindless rabble that has to defend multitasking at all costs. Especially the students here. No, you don’t need all those programs in order to write a paper — and just so you all know, I’m currently double majoring in a Humanities field and Math. Having your web browser is a dangerous lure while studying or writing, even if you swear not to check Facebook, blogs, or their ilk.

    There’s been some interesting research at Stanford in the past months that reinforces the idea that young “Net” generation can’t actually multitask effectively, and that multitaskers over time even become worse at multitasking itself. http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/08/multitasking/

    Of course, I’m not trying to lay judgement on any of you. I’m a techie too – for instance, I run (at the same time) Kubuntu using Opera with 4-5 windows and about 10 tabs each, Amarok music player, Ktorrent, and Pidgin chat. But in the past year I’ve been feeling this is all unsustainable, like my ability to remember what I’ve been doing online or abilitiy to read text (on the page) has dropped. I’m starting a resolution to try to single task as much as I can. This is extra important in my case since I’m getting through college, and I need to regain hard focus. I even feel like we’ve been sold a bill of goods with faster computers that have multi-core processors, since multitasking isn’t great, and there aren’t even a lot of programs that use all those cores.

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