In Defence Of No Multitasking: Microsoft Edition

In Defence Of No Multitasking: Microsoft Edition

Windows Phone 7 won’t have full multitasking for third-party apps, which, given Windows Mobile’s multitasking past, took people off guard. Here’s how Microsoft’s Scott Guthrie answers for this. Warning: The rationalisations might sound a little familiar.

Microsoft’s stance is one that’s been well-established by another company, and it revolves around broad experience. From a blogger roundtable at Mix today:

How do you trade-off battery life at the same time? As soon as you allow arbitrary apps to do things in the background, it can run out the battery pretty quickly.

In pointing out that background apps can drain your battery, Guthrie is right. Microsoft is taking a conservative approach in taking away the very option – the “hand grenade” – that is multitasking, in service of a smooth, predictable user experience on the whole. And yeah, for current smartphone platforms that do support multitasking, nobody’s come up with a truly user-friendly way to manage the apps – Android’s implementation is confusing to a lot of people, and Palm’s simpler system still causes slowdown, if left unchecked.

But let’s rewind for a second. Apple, instead of coming up with a true solution for the multitasking problem, built a push notification service in its place, announced in 2008. From their website:

The Apple Push Notification service is designed with the mobility needs of iPhone and iPod touch users in mind. Most of the heavy lifting is handled between your servers and ours, so there’s less impact on battery life and performance than there would be if you ran the app in the background.

At the time, this was panned as a cheap workaround. Now, Microsoft says it’s planning almost the exact same thing. Apple’s workaround has worked well enough for them, but it’s been over a year and a half since their push notification announcement, which implicitly conceded that simple singletasking just isn’t good enough. It still isn’t, and push notifications are still going to be seen as a workaround.

Oh, and this video. This video!

What did that ever really mean? Aside from hubs – which are essentially widgets – I’m having trouble finding serious differences between Apple and Microsoft’s philosophy here. [Mix 2010]