Why webOS Gets Multitasking, And Others Don’t

Rants,Technology — February 14, 2011 @ 7:06 pm

First off, I’ll be the first to admit webOS’s shortcomings, like its limited app selection, and more importantly, the maddening lack of spec-busting, powerful modern hardware to run it on. However, I’m getting tired of articles and posts, like this one, that try to explain away various “multitasking” solutions with excuses that generally boil down to “what’s it matter, you’re only doing one thing at a time anyway, so our background/freeze solution is just as good as yours, and besides, all you really want is just to play music in the background while surfing, isn’t it?”.

Except that it isn’t. The best multitasking solution is the one that allows ME, the user, to multitask. Not just the OS. If the OS itself multitasks, that’s cool. But that’s not really helping me if I can’t juggle multiple tasks easily. The reason why webOS gets it, and other OSes don’t, is that in webOS it is trivially easy for me to do multiple things at once. For example, I can decide to tell Pandora that I really like what it’s playing for me while in the middle of typing an email. I can launch a web site, swipe back to Keyring, copy a password, and by the time I swipe back to the web site the page is loaded waiting for me to paste the password.

While on a road trip, I can put my phone on my car’s touchstone, and have it stream Pandora or play music on the way, while simultaneously giving me GPS turn-by-turn directions. And as if that isn’t enough, I can run Trapster simultaneously to help avoid police speed traps. I don’t even have to juggle back and forth, since I’m listening to the Navigation while looking at the Trapster map, and I don’t have to switch apps to control my music when I want to, because the music controls are right there in the notification bar. WebOS even knows when to lower the music volume so that it can tell me I’m approaching my exit. If I get a text message or email on the way, I instantly see who it’s from and what it says without even having to touch my phone, and yet it doesn’t intrude on what I’m currently running. It can notify me that I’m running late on my calendar appointment, and with ONE tap I can let coworkers know that I’m running a bit late. Without having to switch tasks.

There is simply no other smartphone platform that allows me, the user, to multitask nearly as efficiently as webOS does. They’re all finding ways for the OS to multitask, but they’re not quite as effective at helping the USER multitask. And that’s where webOS wins.

Copyright © Ibukun Olumuyiwa 2007.