On multitasking

Reading around various commentaries on the iPad one criticism in particular stands out, it’s usually the first thing the tech writers mention, as if it’s some horrifically fatal flaw.

“no multitasking”.

It occurred to me that most people (specifically the people the device is aimed at) don’t really understand what multitasking is. I even wonder if the people writing about it fully unstand what it means because the iPad (and the iPhone/iPod touch for that matter) multitask just fine - there’s a mail daemon running in the background checking my mail, there’s a notifications daemon checking for new notifications, a calendar thread checking for reminders, you can play music and browse websites at the same time and so on. Even within applications, multiple tasks run together.

It strikes me that there is really only 1 thing neither the iPad or iPhone do in the background that even the “normals” the devices are aimed at want. The Killer App for these classes of device. Instant Messaging.

I have skype installed on my iPhone and it works ok but in order for my contacts to see that I’m online I have to have the application running and I can’t be doing anything else. This will hold true for the iPad.

Notifications don’t really cut it because it doesn’t really provide a way of not being online, or changing your ‘status’ or whathaveyou. I wonder if this is an issue with how it has been implemented in individual applications (indeed, Skype doesn’t use them at all, but that’s a whole other story).

I think if Apple were to provide some tools and a bit of guidance to enable instant messaging client developers to provide the kind of behaviour users expect from their IM experience, much of the multitasking discussion would fade away.