Multitasking for 3rd-Party Apps?

Some have speculated, based on varying degrees of “insider” information, that all iDevices (current 2007/2008 iPhones & iPod Touch models as well as upcoming 2009 iPhones, iPod Touch models and an all-new iDevice sometimes referred to as ‘iTablet,’ ‘iPad’ or ‘iPortal’ which will compete with Tablets and “Netbooks”) running iPhone OS 3.0 when it ships this summer may have more than just the “background notification” features announced at the iPhone OS 3.0 Preview Event in March.

Specifically, several rumor-mongers have suggested that certain apps — either a specified number (two [2] is the most frequently mentioned figure), or a limited range of application types which would fit certain requirements to be “pre-approved” for background-tasking capability by Apple’s AppStore managers.

Neither of these fits very well with Infinite Loop’s style, nor are they consistent in any way with the information we’ve received from our own “insider” sources.

Instead, what we’ve been led to expect is quite different; “background notifications” would be all that users of existing iPhone/iPod Touch hardware (specifically: single core 412-532MHz ARM11 CPUs, 128MB of SDRAM memory, and PowerVR “MBX Lite” GPU) can expect from iPhone OS 3.0 because of the tremendous power drain — 80% less battery life, in Apple’s public statements at the iPhone OS 3.0 Preview Event — and only new 2009 iDevices, with next-generation hardware would be able to take advantage of “true” background tasking for 3rd Party apps because of their superior performance & energy efficiency.

Based on unique, advanced dual-core ARM CPUs built internally by Apple’s semiconductor unit (formerly known as PA Semi, which Infinite Loop acquired last year), 256MB or more of DDR memory, and the latest multi-core PowerVR GPUs, these next-generation iDevices would be far better equipped to cope with the demands of “true” multi-tasking for third party applications.

Also, importantly for those concerned about the Palm Pre’s powerful CPU — twice as fast as the 412MHz ARM11 based iPhones to date — and ability to multi-task from day one….the new iDevices would crush the Pre in all areas of performance while also sporting better battery life. Which is to say nothing of the superiority of the App Store, or “iPhone OS” itself.

There are three possible alternate scenarios which could affect the availability of such multi-tasking to current & future iDevice owners based on Rumors’ analysis of source reports available to date:

1) True background tasking support may be referenced at the World Wide Developer Conference (June 8-12), but not actually released as part of iPhone OS 3.0 — rather, it would be held back for 4.0 in 2010 and may only work on certain 2009 iDevices which sport the improved hardware. Low-end 2009 iDevices would continue to employ hardware similar to existing iPhone/iTouch, and in this scenario only 2010 iDevices would support background applications across all models.

2) A second possibility would be similar to scenario #1, but Apple would extend support within iPhone OS 4.0 to all iDevices back to 2007 with the caveat that only “high end” (dual-core 2009 models & all 2010 iDevices) hardware will offer satisfactory battery life when apps are run in the background…it’s important to note that version 4.0 will not be free except to owners of 2009 & 2010 iDevices, further raising the desirability/bar of entry to existing iDevice owners and decreasing our estimate of the likelihood of this scenario.

3)A highly limited version of backgrounding support, allowing only a single pre-specified application and only for certain types of apps (notably streaming music players such as Pandora, or similar apps primarily focused on audio which can be perceived from the “background” unlike other applications) based around a new, enhanced Dock which could be brought to the foreground within any application, not just the Springboard. This would be part of OS 3.0, leaving “true” multitasking to come as part of 4.0 under circumstances along the lines of #1 or #2.

Obviously, having given our readers four separate scenarios in descending order of perceived likelihood on our part, we’re hedging our bets on this topic — and with good reason.

As release dates for Mac OS X 10.6 “Snow Leopard” and iPhone OS 3.0 have been pushed back as far as September with final betas of each being built for WWDC in June rather than the previously anticipated final releases of both taking place at that time, Infinite Loop has been fiercely debating a number of key features within both operating systems. Emerging roadmaps for OS X 10.7 “Lion” and iPhone OS 4.0 (sometimes humorously referred to as “Housecat” or “Tabby” internally) appear to contain several features previously rumored, but not publicly acknowledged by Apple, for the 2009 system releases….further obscuring whether even stripped-down versions of those features can be expected this year.

We’ll be digging much deeper into these rumors in the days ahead, so stay tuned — and don’t forget to speak your mind: send us your questions, comments, article topic requests, etc. by email, following us on Twitter, or simply submit a web comment using the form below!

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