New Apple iPhone OS 4 to Allow Multi-Tasking


IPhone users will gain enhanced multi-tasking capabilities when Apple rolls out the latest version of its operating system this summer, according to various reports.

The multi-tasking feature has long been desired by iPhone users, and now Apple (AAPL), which unveiled its iPhone OS 4 on Thursday, plans to deliver. Multi-tasking allows users to simultaneously work with more than one application at a time, as opposed to shutting down one program before launching another.

Apple has previously allowed limited multi-tasking with its own iPhone applications, but not with programs created by third-party developers. So, for example, if you wanted to listen to a YouTube video while playing a game, you'd have to chose between one or the other.

Addressing a Weakness

The lack of multi-tasking has been one of the iPhone's deficiencies since it launched in 2007, said Ross Rubin, an analyst with the NPD Group. Meanwhile, competitors like Research in Motion's (RIMM) BlackBerry and Google's (GOOG) Android smartphone OS have offered this feature for some time. Palm also lets users get notifications as they work in other programs.

Apple's previous opposition to offering multi-tasking centered on the way it could affect performance and quickly deplete the device's battery life. While this is true, RIMM has managed to make it work, noted Rubin. And Apple's new multi-tasking feature will apparently be a lightweight version, according to a report by Silicon Alley Insider. However, it's not clear whether this version will save battery power, or if users will notice the difference.

All that is good and well for folks running iPhones 3GS, the iPod Touch 3G -- and, notably the new iPad tablet. (The iPad version of the OS won't start shipping until fall.) But for those using an iPhone 3G, they're out of luck, notes Engadget.

Investors Spooked by iPad Numbers

IPhone users will likely be jazzed to see the multi-tasking features available come summer, but what does this mean for Apple investors?

"Consumers don't buy the operating system itself. It comes with the hardware. But one of the reason Apple has sold as many devices as it has is, in part, driven by its unique operating system," Rubin said.

Apple's shares, however, were in the red during late afternoon trading as Apple unveiled its iPhone OS 4, even as the broader markets advanced.

Investors may have been spooked by figures released by Apple CEO Steve Jobs during the OS 4 unveiling. He said 450,000 iPads have been sold since the tablet computer hit the market on Saturday. That means only 150,000 iPads have been sold in the four days since Saturday, when Apple sold 300,000 units on its release day.

Wall Street analyst Samuel Wilson of JMP Securities previously advised investors to keep a keen eye on foot traffic at Apple stores over the first two or three weeks after the iPad launch to gauge whether the device will be a hit for Apple.