Protecting the Cash Cow: Why the iPad Does Not Have Multitasking Ability

Why Apple does not allow multitasking on the iPadThe internet is abuzz with what the iPad is missing, but for each statement there is a very specific and reasoned answer.  I’ve been happy to see Daring Fireball give background on the reason Flash is not and should never be built into Apple’s Touch platform.  With that properly explained, let’s look at why the iPad does not allow multi-tasking of applications.

Apple enthusiasts are often quick to point out that the iPhone would run out of batteries too quickly or the processor would not be strong enough to support snappy use of multiple applications.  This proves true in testing a jailbroken iPhone.  But the iPad Apple tablet does not get the same defense.  The carefully touted A4 chip should have no problem running a sophisticated 3rd party application and the native mail client at the same time.

This is big trouble as more complex games for the device are introduced.  For example Grand Theft Auto, The China Town Wars, is a complex 3D game recently released for the iPhone and iPod Touch. GTA: CTW has the potential to lose mission progress by dropping you back to your apartment every time the game is left unexpectedly.  While this clearly negatively affects the gamer experience, imagine how frequent push notifications begging gamers to leave for just a moment will affect more persistent, longer-session games like World of Warcraft.

The A4 is pretty tough chip and conceivably should have the ability to safely run multiple iPhone and iPod Touch applications, if not the more weighty future iPad-specfic titles.  So why isn’t multitasking being allowed?

Apple does not want people to use streaming music services like Pandora and Last.fm until it is ready with its own cloud-based, Genius-powered streaming music recommendation engine a seamless listening experience through the iPod application and iTunes.

Currently, the only ways to play back audio while running another application (crippled multitasking) are:

  • Using the iPod application
  • Downloading an mp3 or other audio attachment from an email and hitting play. (Plays back from within the mail application)
  • Downloading an mp3 or other audio from the web. (Safari plays it back)

Similarly, the only way to playback streaming audio is using the Last.fm application, the Pandora application or a few other apps that use a recommendation engine to create lists of songs you do not own and stream them to you.  If Apple were to allow you to playback Pandora today on the iPad and work with the iLife suite to author documents they will be training you not to use iTunes!

“But they can’t get away with that!” That’s right, they can’t.  That’s why Apple will introduce its cloud-based iTunes offering either before or in tandem with the release of the next generation iPhone this coming around June. Using the brains acquired in the purchase of Lala, Apple will be introducing a mixed-mode local and cloudbased listening experience where any iTunes music collection can be played back in part on the locally stored disk or streamed from the cloud using an iPad.

Apple will use Genius to identify and stream audio to iPad users in its own competitive play against Pandora and Last.fm.  Once a strong streaming, Genius-powered solution is available to iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad users future devices will be able to multi-task all applications, including the most threatening, streaming audio services.

Jobs made it a point to illustrate Apple has 125 million credit cards on file through iTunes.  Every streaming audio selection that is in turn bought by the user can be facilitated using that payment information.  Not the case with Pandora or Last.fm!  Denying these applications the ability to gain traction gives the iTunes ecosystem time to evolve to include their services.  This will make the future allowance of multitasking apps delivering this music less impactful in pulling users away from greatest cash cow in software’s history: iTunes.

M.I.A. Uses Twitter, "Space Odyssey" to Bring Attention to the Continued Plight of Tamil Civilians in Sri Lanka

Musician M.I.A. released a song titled “Space Odyssey” this past week that has become notable for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was her reaction to a New York Times travel guide spotlighting Sri Lanka as a travel destination in 2010.

First, new work from M.I.A. is eagerly anticipated as she went on hiatus following a tour for her Grammy nominated record, Kaya. I was at the far edges of the crowd with my sister when she told the audience at Bonnaroo in 2008 that it would be her last performance.  Since then, M.I.A. has largely kept away from music creation.

Second, M.I.A. chose to deliver “Space Odyssey” to fans via a twitter update, where she shared the video via TwitVid, a popular 3rd party service for video hosting that competes directly with Vidly.  While M.I.A’s choice of TwitVid as the media player allowed her to use her Twitter feed to deliver new music directly to her fans, it also has forced everyone to listen to this critically important release in terrible quality video and audio.  Check out the embed above.

Most notably, following the surprise release of the song, M.I.A.’s publicist confirmed that “Space Odyssey”  was released specifically in reaction to a recent New York Times story on the Top 31 Places to Go in 2010 written by Lionel Beehner.  In the NYT piece, Beehner acknowledges that the country has been “plagued by misfortune…but the conflict ended last May.” and goes on to suggest that “miles of sugary white sand flanked by bamboo groves that were off-limits until recently are a happy, if unintended byproduct of the war.”

If you are unfamiliar, a brutal civil war was being fought between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).  Leading up to the end of major conflict in May of 2009, many civilians were killed in efforts by the government to put down the rebel group.  The US State Department has issued a report outlining areas of concern (pdf) where International Humanitarian Law is believed to have been violated.

For some time following the end of combat, a quarter million people from the Tamil minority were forced to remain in refugee camps for months.  Between the brutality on both sides during the war and subsequent forced confinement afterwards, Sri Lanka’s international standing is quite low.  M.I.A. is of Tamil ancestry and fled the country as a refugee.  She has specifically decried (see her explanation at 3:25) the violence on both sides of the war.

M.I.A’s made a bold move in connecting her new artistry directly to a major US news publication’s pithy and embarrassing portrayal of Sri Lanka as a top tourist destination.  She did so using her platform of roughly 82,000 Twitter followers, all eager to hear what she would follow Paper Planes with.  M.I.A. has hit upon a near perfect mix of social networking, social action and artistic expression, most certainly setting her apart as an artist to watch in 2010.

Donations for Haiti

Haiti was devastated by an earthquake this week, resulting in the loss of countless lives and suffering among many.  A quick read reveals how much this country has suffered before this natural disaster.

You can learn more from the wikipedia entry on the Haiti.

If you are capable of giving money to assist in the rescue and recovery efforts, please consider a donation to one of the following organizations:

Using your cell phone:

  • Text “Haiti” 90999 to be billed a $10 donation to the Red Cross.

On the web:

Thank you.   Rob

Killer Application for Apple Tablet is Board Games

There’s a lot more speculation about the tablet since a New York Times blog entry that included a quote that people will be “surprised how you interact with the new tablet.”  A lot of the conjecture is based on applications for patents that Apple has filed in the past few years.  I have an angle that offers interesting interaction with the Apple Tablet, iSlate, iGuide or Apple Slate with a killer application is decidedly low-tech.

The idea is that the iSlate will communicate and be driven in part by nearby iPhones and iPod Touch devices over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.  Authorized iPhone and iPod Touch devices nearby the iSlate will act as sophisticated remote controls.  This use case takes advantage of the user’s likely existing Apple hardware in the Touch platform and focuses on the fact that the iSlate will likely have a large, bright screen with a reasonable viewing angle. Let’s examine a potential killer application of this idea.

The tablet screen will be able to lie flat on a table between two or more people.  Through iTunes, the owner of the tablet will purchase an application that runs full screen on the tablet.  The publisher of the tablet application will also make available free applications that run on the iPhone and iPod Touch and communicate directly with the app running on the tablet.

Using the Apple Tablet as a Centerpiece to Electronic Board Games

A great example would be the classic board game, Scrabble.  In Scrabble, you have a board that requires physical placement of letters on a major center area.  It also requires players to keep the letters in their tray secret from other players.  In a Scrabble for the iSlate scenario, players need only to have an iPhone or iPod Touch to virtually hold their letters.

The iPod Touch or iPhone could vibrate or make a noise when it is a player’s turn and it would be used to send the results of the player’s decisions to the Apple tablet at the center of the table.

One important aspect of this is size, the traditional Scrabble board is a fair bit larger than the expected 10.1″ Pixel Qi powered display.  I believe that this type of thing could be overcome by the tablet giving intelligent focus to the most relevant portions of the board.  Additionally, the iPod Touch and iPhone could be used to manipulate the current viewing area on the tablet, or that area could be manipulated directly using standard multi-touch.

Many other board games would work in this scenario, including Monopoly, where you are handling all kinds of cash, property cards and frequent score calculations. The value you get out of the pairing of a Tablet and the iPhone is that there is a new bridge between physical social interaction and the convenience of an electronic presentation.

Using the Apple Tablet to Share Presentations in Small Groups

There are many other killer applications where the iPhone and iPod Touch serve as input devices to the iSlate or Apple tablet.  One I would use in my meetings for my iPhone application design company, Neutrinos, LLC is a business application is in small group presentations.  The tablet is set up to run a presentation application full screen.

The tablet is handed to one or more clients seated near each other.  The presenter uses an iPod Touch or iPhone to control playback of the presentation.  The presenter’s multi-touch device offers presentation notes, previous and next slide previews and allows them to trigger in-presentation events like animations or even jumping out to a web-view for the clients to explore.  This gives the presenter an opportunity to give a private and engaging presentation in the middle of any cafe, airport or public space.

Using the Apple Tablet for Illustration and as a Supplemental Display Area for Floating Windows

A final use case scenario for using the iPhone and iPod Touch to drive the Tablet is in illustration.  I’ve been working directly with Portland artist Carolyn Main who spends a lot of time with her Wacom tablet.  While the Wacom offers a great deal of pressure point precision that the Apple Touch Platform is unlikely to compete with any time soon, it is reasonable to think that app developers will try to deliver illustration and animation applications that allow creation on the go.

Having an illustration application like Adobe Illustrator running on the tablet, and then being able to use an iPhone or iPod touch for swatch, tool or layer management would leave more of the iSlate’s screen real estate for drawing.

In John Gruber’s recent post about the tablet he writes: “And so in answer to my central question, regarding why buy The Tablet if you already have an iPhone and a MacBook, my best guess is that ultimately, The Tablet is something you’ll buy instead of a MacBook.”  My suggestion is that people buy the tablet because they already have an iPhone or iPod Touch.  Having both a Tablet and a touch makes the Tablet more useful with some great use case scenarios the low-tech realm of board gaming to business.

follow rob on twitter