The 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.