Let Me Be Frank About Windows Phone 7 Multitasking

We learned more about Windows Phone 7 last week as Microsoft provided information to developers at the MIX 2010 Conference. Most of the news has been about features that Windows Phone 7 will not have, all of which Microsoft currently includes in Windows Mobile. Deductions of features is never positively received by existing users, and most of the negative reactions of the news is coming from existing users, particularly power users.

Multitasking is perhaps the most difficult of all the challenges mobile operating system developers face. At the heart of the matter are the issues of performance and battery life, both key issues for mobile phone users. Multitasking is a fundamental function of desktop computers, but the need for multitasking on mobile phones is debatable. Multitasking uses more processing, which consumes battery life, and memory, which is a limited resource on mobile phones. As more memory is used on phones, overall performance begins to slow down.

Apple and now Microsoft are focusing on providing the functionality one gets from multitasking, without actually providing multitasking. Users want to be able to listen to music while browsing web sites, and you are able to do that on both the iPhone and Windows Phone 7, but you do have to use Apple and Microsoft’s music players. The built-in e-mail programs of both devices will continue retrieving e-mail while you are browsing the web and listening to music. Power users don’t like the fact that the iPhone does not multitask with any program they want, but most users are satisfied with the functionality the iPhone provides.

People have not stopped buying the iPhone because it doesn’t multitask, and I don’t think users will not buy the Windows Phone 7 because it doesn’t multitask. How the lack of multitasking may affect Windows Phone 7 is from bad publicity if Apple adds multitasking to iPhone OS 4 because Windows Phone 7 will appear to be behind. Everyone seems to be assuming Apple will add multitasking in the next release of the iPhone OS, but I am not convinced that will be the case if Apple cannot address the performance and battery life issues multitasking causes and they are not easy problems to solve.