Apple will be previewing iPhone OS 4.0 to reporters and industry analysts in a special presentation tomorrow that Apple called "a sneak peek into the future of iPhone OS software." Most observers are fairly confident that the update will bring multitasking to the iPhone and iPad
, a feature that many users have been waiting a long time for. However, given the hardware limitations of the iPhone - especially older models - some pundits are guessing that Apple will restrict multitasking to certain applications only.
According to industry professionals and alleged leaks from inside Apple, multitasking in unavailable for most apps because of the load it would put of the iPhone and because of security concerns. remember that the iPhone OS is built on the same Mach microkernel that lies at the heart of the desktop Mac OS X, so it already supports fully-preemptive multitasking
. Apple limits multitasking capabilities to its own apps like the phone, Messages, Mail, iPod, Voice Memos or ones that it directly controls such as Nike+. The limitation is always explained by the need to manage scarce resources and prevent the installation malware on the iPhone.
Thus, Apple is unlikely to allow full-bore multitasking in iPhone 4.0. Aaron Vronko, the CEO of iPhone service shop Rapid Repair, told Computerworld
that he thinks that Apple will decide which apps will be permitted
to run in the background, a scheme he calls "intelligent multitasking." Giving Apple control over the apps that will be able to multitask makes sense, according to Vronko, "because it lets Apple control the user experience and performance," he said, in a reference to power and memory management. The iPad, like the iPhone 3GS and third generation iPod touch, is limited by its 256MB of RAM, and older iPhone OS devices have only 128MB.
Though most observers, including analysts like Ezra Gottheil with Technology Business Research (who also gave his opinion to Computerworld
), believe that the upcoming fourth-generation iPhone will have some version of the new A4 processor, both he and Vronko claim that multitasking will still overload the device, and that Apple will hobble the system to keep users from swamping the CPU and RAM. In a world where devices like a Blackberry Bold or a Palm Pre can multitask with less available resources, the case is far from strong... but it sounds like one that Apple will make anyway.