The iPad's missing feature: multitasking

The new iPad changes everything, thanks to a number of much-needed hardware improvements.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

There's a killer feature that's absent from the iPad. But now that we have the new iPad sporting a high pixel density Retina display and quad-core graphics, I believe that it's only a matter of time before this feature is added - and it will stomp the competition.

The feature I'm talking about is multitasking.

There was no way that the first-generation iPad was up to the demands of true multitasking. I still use a first-generation iPad and to be honest the pseudo-multitasking that Apple have built into iOS is even a bit clumsy on this device. The iPad 2, while a little better than the first-generation device, suffered most of the shortcomings of the original device.

But the iPad 3 changes everything, thanks to a number of much-needed hardware improvements.

First, there's the beefed-up GPU that's capable of shuffling around a lot more pixels than the previous generation iPad could manage. More power is a good thing, especially if you want to run multiple applications. However the real strong point of the new iPad is the screen.

You might be wondering how a screen, even if it is a high pixel density panel, helps you run more applications. It helps because it gives you more pixel real estate to run those apps on. You could have two apps side-by-side when in landscape orientation, or one above the other in portrait orientation. In fact, it could be possible to squeeze four apps onto the screen at once, each app running at the same resolution as apps on the first or second-generation iPads.

I know what you're saying already. "But the scaling is all wrong!" True, but I'm not talking about scaling existing apps to shoehorn them into a multitasking environment. I'm talking here about Apple putting in the framework for developers to build apps that would support multitasking.

I'm not for one moment suggesting that every app is suited to multitasking. You couldn't multitask games or other apps that put heavy demands on the hardware. I'm thinking more of apps that display data or are used to create content, such as word processing, spreadsheets -- that sort of thing would also be nice to be able to have email and calendar apps up simultaneously, or have a calculator or Twitter client up on the screen while I'm doing something else.

There are times when having multiple apps on the screen at one time would be infinitely more useful and efficient than having to switch between separate, standalone apps.

Adding multitasking to the next release of iOS would give Apple a clear advantage over both Android tablets and Microsoft's Windows 8 tablets with their Metro UI apps, and help keep the iPad ahead of the competition.

Image credit: Apple.


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