Microsoft is reportedly planning to ditch multitasking in Windows Mobile 7. It’s a move that has some potential benefits but some significant drawbacks as well.
The reports come from several sites, most notably PPCGeeks. That site isn’t willing to back its info as a 100 percent certainty, but it does have an extensive list of details about the system which suggests its source may be accurate.
If true, there are some obvious drawbacks to the decision:
It makes for phones with less capability. Put simply, a smartphone today — particularly the high-end devices which Windows Mobile 7 will be aimed at — is marketed as a tiny computer in your pocket. A computer which can only do one thing at a time is a poor show.
The news is particularly poorly timed. The main criticism of Apple’s iPad, beyond questions of whether it fills a real market gap, is that it can’t multitask, unlike portable Windows devices. This would take away a major weapon in the Microsoft-Apple argument, whether you’re talking about official company PR or fanboy slanging matches.
But there are also some upsides:
It could help hardware. The main argument for not having multi-tasking on the iPhone has always been that doing so cuts down memory and processor requirements and extends battery life. If that’s the case, we could be looking at cheaper devices being able to run Windows Mobile.
The benefit to developers. If a developer knows they don’t have to worry about sharing resources with other applications, they can theoretically produce more advanced, demanding apps. Of course, that can be a negative if this simply means there’s less incentive to avoid bloatware.
Microsoft is said to be ditching multitasking in a smart way. If the reports are true, although only one application can be running at a time, any others will be put on pause rather than shut down. That would mean, for example, you could break off from typing an e-mail to check a website, then return to the e-mail exactly where you let off. This would severely limit the disruption of losing multitasking and might be enough to make it workable for many or most users.
For all the assessments of the pros and cons, however, it’s often tough to argue with gut reactions. Mine was that losing multitasking at this stage sounded so ludicrous that it must either not be true or is a plain bad idea.