It is, of course, a significantly different smartphone world today than it was in 2007 when the iPhone was introduced. There now are Android phones and snappy proprietary devices from other vendors. The days of iPhone hegemony are over.
In the old days -- the good old days, from Apple's point of view-anyone who wanted a really cool phone needed to overlook any concerns they had with the iPhone and plunk down their money.
The latest sign that this just isn't the case anymore-and that Apple recognizes this-is the likelihood that what most people consider the iPhone's biggest drawback is on the verge of being fixed. AppleInsider reports that The iPhone 4.0 update, due this summer, will allow multitasking of third-party applications.
The story, which is not based on information from Apple-it cites knowledgeable Apple-watchers-provides background and goes into some detail on how the company will do this. Enabling the third-party applications while protecting battle life, memory and security, doesn't sound like a big technical challenge. Other phones do it, after all, and even native iPhone apps run in multitask mode. The issue, as AppleInsider points out, is enabling applications downloaded from outside to act in this manner.
A hot rumor was that multitasking for the iPhone was to be announced when the iPad was introduced. That didn't happen, but it suggested that the day was drawing near. The information in the AppleInsider piece is specific enough to make it seem imminent. (Another rumor, by the way, is that Verizon Wireless will offer the iPhone 4G when Apple's exclusivity agreement with AT&T ends in June.)
Eric Zeman, commenting at InformationWeek on the same story, wonders what the process of users switching between applications will look like. He also wonders if a statement in the AppleInsider piece that the operating system "has a long way to go" before it is finished means that it won't be ready this year. Both are good questions. Zeman links to UMPC Fever, which has some bizarre-looking photos that are said to be shots of the new iPhone. Their authenticity is questionable, to say the least. But they are fun in a world of perfect Photoshopped product shots.
It is just a matter of time before the iPhone offers full multitasking. This is something IT departments should follow. Some folks-such as PC World's Tony Bradley-don't think it's such a big deal. Even he acknowledges, however, that questions on security, management, performance and battery life will need to be answered by Apple.