Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Editorial: Are We Really Multitasking?

In the beginning of the fight between smart phone vs. smart phone and tablet vs. tablet, there was a great desire from consumers to be able to multitask like they could on a desktop PC. On a PC you have the option to have many different windows open, this allows you to be able to run and see multiple programs at the same time.

With the PC style of multitasking it allows you to be listening to music in the background or easily switch from a game to using the web. One of the most common forms is having a dual screen computer. This allows you to see multiple programs at once so you don't have to continually change between them while you copy information from one program to the other.

Many of the current Mobile OS platforms have elements of multitasking built in but it seems that they are still far from what we really need. From the beginning of the iPhone you could open up iPod and start your music, then you could switch to view your Calender or messaging very easily while still listening to your music. This is great but let everyone longing for more.

Now the iOS allows you to do this with all apps. You simply press the home button twice to open up the most recent apps so that you can switch from one to the other only running certain tasks like music and or location based services in the background and pausing the rest of the processing. On Android it is a similar way of doing things. When you leave an app it will keep the spot where you just were. You can then hold the home button and a list of recent apps will appear and you can then switch back to where you previously were. Android is known for running many computing tasks in the background to keep all widgets and services up to date with the greatest information.

Yes these process would fall in the line of actual multitasking, but is that what we truly are doing? Right now, look at your computer screen and see how many different windows you have open. Is there just one or are there multiple? Do you spend your time only doing one thing or is there a web browser open on one side of the screen and Word open on the other? These processes are what makes a computer so great. With this we can do much more than what a simple piece of paper could ever do for us.

On the mobile OS this is something that is still yet to be done. Recently Microsoft put out a demo of upcoming features of Windows 8 for touch screens that gives the ability to do this type of computing on a touch screen. There are certain apps right now such as Twitter on the iPad that allow you to view your stream and click on a link to open a new panel where the browser opens so you can still see your stream and view a web page at the same time. This would be great to have in tablets because of the amount of real-estate.

When Honeycomb came out I thought about what would be the one feature that I would love to have on it that iOS did not have. I thought it would be great if you were able to open two Android apps at the same time and use them simultaneously. The possibilities of combinations of apps could be anything. Maybe you want to check your bank account transactions and want to update a budget at the same time but don't want to keep switching back and forth between the apps because it is hard to remember the detailed information. Maybe you a browsing Facebook but want to be playing a casual game of Cut the Rope at the same time.

From what i have learned this is not possible yet on any available mobile OS. I have not been able to find any apps that allow you to open two specific apps at the same time. The ability to do this maybe based on the processor but this definitely needs to be put down on the Need to put in the next OS update list.