Multitasking Fail: Sometimes, Apple is just right

A prominent blogger switches from Palm Pre to iPhone? (Link thanks to daringfireball.) Why?

If a call comes in, the phone starts ringing, and I can answer and talk to the caller, but most of the time it takes another 10 seconds before the Phone application’s UI comes up! So if it’s from the front door and I have to press a button to buzz someone in, I have to either hope the app starts responding before the caller hangs up; or I have to slide out the physical keypad and pray that it buffers the keystroke. Trying to answer the door feels like a game of whack-a-mole.

(Emphasis mine.) It’s not like Palm has some kind of secret sauce for writing fast software on mobile devices. And it’s not like Google does either, so don’t expect Androids to somehow magically solve this problem.

So even though I hate Apple’s developer-hostility, and even though I hate that now I’m giving money to AT&T, and even though AT&T’s network is way less reliable in San Francisco than Sprint’s, and even though I absolutely despise the iPhone’s on-screen keyboard… at least now I have a phone whose software actually works.

I don’t think you’ll find a single iPhone user or developer with much nice to say about AT&T, and yet we all seem to love our iPhones.

I thought about trying out an Android phone, but the reality is that the most positive review I’ve ever heard about Android was damning with faint praise along the lines of, “it sure does show the potential to someday be an iPhone competitor.”

Yup. That’s how big Apple’s lead is.

Post Script: Deja Vu

Back in the old days of Mac OS 8 and Windows 95, “true pre-emptive multitasking” was one of the features Windows fanboys loved to point to when comparing Windows 95 to Mac OS 8. Funny thing was, the cooperative multitasking on Mac OS worked just fine for everything anyone could think of, and — in particular — Apple had hacked Finder to allow it to handle things like file copy operations in the background* (even though Finder was a single application on OS without “true” multitasking). As a result, Windows 95 had “true pre-emptive multitasking” but a single file copy would lock up Windows Explorer (and indeed the destination Window for a file copy operation is still locked up as of Vista), while Apple’s humble Finder could handle file operations in the background.

* Most power users had been enjoying this feature for some time thanks to Connectix Speed Doubler.

What’s the single most common “other” task you’re likely to want to do in a multitasking OS? File operations of course. Would you rather have “true multitasking” but file copies lock up your file browser, or “cooperative multitasking” and file copies don’t even lock up the destination Window?

With the iPhone, Apple has opted for deliberately crippled multitasking that handles emails, the phone, instant messages — but doesn’t drain its battery or make the phone unresponsive. Google and Palm have checked the “multitasking” box without really exploring whether that’s really a net benefit to the end-user.