• Report: iPhone OS 4.0 to Support Multitasking

    AppleInsider is quoting "people with a proven track record in predicting Apple's technological advances" as saying that the next major release of the iPhone OS will support multitasking: the holy grail of many enthusiasts. The informants - who asked that the details remain secret as development on the new OS has "a way to go" - say there will be new "multi-tasking manager" software as part of iPhone 4.0, and that the main obstacles to multitasking up until now have been battery life and security.

    The iPhone OS is based on the same Mach microkernel that is at the heart of Mac OS X, and so is already capable of multitasking. Apple enabled this for certain native apps - such as iPod and Messages - so that you can get SMS notifications and play music while doing other things. Up until now, the sources say, the main reason Apple has avoided allowing third-party apps to run in the background is to pre-emptively prohibit any spyware or malicious code from being run on the iPhone. Secondary reasons include resource management and battery life. So what might have changed to allow Apple to reconsider?

    Probably the most significant development is Apple's new A4. The energy efficient system-on-a-chip, reportedly allowing ten hours of video playback, will power the iPad and is widely rumored as the heart of the next generation iPhone. This could render concerns about battery life moot, at least on newer devices, and Apple may use this as an inducement to owners of current iPhones to get an upgrade. That's total speculation, but it sure sounds like a classic Apple move. The iPad, of course, would be able to take full advantage of multitasking, and Apple doubtlessly has considered user disappointment when they discover they can only do one thing at a time on the new device.

    The iPhone user interface would obviously have to be redesigned to allow users to take advantage of multitasking. It could be something like a ProSwitcher-style "double-push" of the Home button… or maybe this is the use for the mysterious "triple tap" that's been found in the3.2 beta release of the iPhone SDK. It will be interesting to see how Apple implements it… and how it can be hacked to work better.
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