Regarding Apple stance on multitasking and why most tech users are clueless

Tue, Feb 23, 2010

Featured, News

Since the iPhone was first released, people have complained about its lack of support for third-party multitasking. This sentiment was further amplified when Apple recently announced the iPad, a device which also won’t support multitasking outside of Apple’s own apps.

The proffered reason behind Apple’s reluctance to support system wide multitasking is that users will inevitably leave apps open and running in the background, forget about them, and inadvertently drain their battery and affect their system performance in the process.

“But that’s nonsense!” critics chant from the rooftops, “users are smart enough to keep track of what apps they have open, and even if they aren’t, Apple can just release an app similar to Androids’ Advanced Task Killer.

We, however, take an opposing viewpoint and humbly assert that the vast majority of tech users are decidedly not smart enough to responsibly handle multitasking, let alone make sense of an app that allows them to terminate processes.

Our evidence is admittedly unscientific, but nonetheless, compelling.

There’s an app on the iTunes App Store called Amazing X-Ray that purports to x-ray various parts of your body and show the corresopnding images on your iPhone/iPod Touch screen. The app is essentially a party gag, and you’d like to think that no one in their right minds would realistically think Apple built X-ray functionality into their products. But then, you’d be giving the public far too much credit.

To wit, take a look at some of the user reviews of the X-Ray app on iTunes.

“I bought it thinking it would actually work.. was I stupid?! Its a huge fraud. It’s not your REAL x-ray, its a HUGE fraud. Don’t waste your money on this. Its a huge fraud. I really want my money back. Its also really unclear and its stupid.”

“I was duped. They can return my money? I thought it was a true x ray. False and buy it now. Give me my money please.”

A slew of other user reviews express the same sentiment, with a good number of them being warnings to other users that the app isn’t real.

And here’s some more proof that most people are technically clueless in the form of a video where a man asks random passerbys on the street what a web browser is. Their answers are pretty ridiculous.

Like it or not, but these users represent the average tech user in America! They don’t know what multitasking is, they’ve never heard of Engadget, and they sure as hell care more about a product that just works than they do about a list of impressive sounding specs. You’d be surprised how many people navigate to CNN via typing into Google rather than typing it into the address bar.

These people, my friends, are the people Apple keeps in mind when it designs a product. It might sound obnoxious to say, but Apple’s stance on multitasking is essentially geared towards saving users from themselves.

If you’re not down with that, then hey, that’s perfectly understandable. But don’t expect Apple to cave in to the cries of geeks when the number non tech-savvy individuals are far more voluminous.


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11 Comments For This Post

  1. keson Says:

    Absolutely true. The only users who complain are those with above average expectations – 99% of users are just happy with what they got.
    I am a tech geek, programmer, with a clue of what is going on in ma iPhone. But I love the fact, that the risk of having broken or unlawfully behaving app is minimized by the politics of Apple.

  2. Lee Says:

    I write code for a living everything from GPS front ends right up to managing MRI scanners so I work with some very clever Doctors and Hardware manufactures BUT…

    Nearly every single day I get some stupid question from some highly intelligent person, the ONLY way to get 100% of the people who use your software/hardware correctly is to make it closed loop…

    If you give an end user even 0.001% the ability to change anything to do with the system apart from wall papers or the like… opps support calls swiftly follow…

  3. jon1 Says:

    Most Tech Writers are clueless.
    There are 30 or 40 million iPhone and iPod Touch users currently using the devices who are very happy with the functionality.
    These devices have adequate multi-tasking – Bubbles and badges operate without the programs being open.
    99 percent of tech writers cannot fix their cars – but they can drive them.
    This whole multitasking non-issue is being manufactured by a few people trying to find a leg up on the competition – and it is not working because it doesn’t matter. The people trading up from a regular cell phone find that the user experience is so much better on a non-multi-tasking smart phone that the point becomes moot.

  4. Chanson de Roland Says:

    Apple did consider something like Advanced Task Killer (Task). Scott Forstall, Apple’s Vice President for its mobile devices, discussed why Apple wouldn’t use a Task Manager. In Apple’s view, the average user couldn’t deal with the complexity of a Task Manager, and, therefore, the iPhone should operate intuitively without the need for a user to figure out which processes need to be terminated to preserve battery life or free sufficient resources for the app(s) that the user wants to run. Thus, the iPhone and the coming iPad limit multitasking so that the user won’t have to manage processes or experience insufficient battery life and/or poor performance.

    But perhaps Apple is wrong. We will see how Android does with its Advanced Task Manager.

  5. iphonerulez Says:

    The tech-heads like to show off how smart and efficient they are. “Look at me, I’m running five apps in the background. Why? Because I can.” Meanwhile their batteries are being drained and the topmost application has slowed down to a crawl.

    The only legitimate complaint I’ve heard is people want to run Pandora in the background to listen to their music while doing one other thing in the foreground such as surfing the internet or reading emails. That does seems reasonable to me, but if Apple doesn’t allow it, then that’s the breaks. I don’t know any users like the kind you’d find on Engadget who are always trying to push their smartphones to the limits in everything. After all, a smartphone is just a cellphone and not a huge desktop to be used as a server. Tech-head users are all about specs and finding flaws in everything. The average consumer will settle for a consistently working device that’s easy to use and that’s about it. Fortunately, Apple chose the right group to make their money off of.

    Most of the iPhone and Touch users I know are very happy with their devices as they are and really hadn’t considered running multiple apps in the background. The main complaint I’ve heard is that they wish the battery lasted longer between charges.

  6. Fernando Says:

    I’ve worked many years in IT in a number of different capacities. I must say the video is spot on. Even in this day an age, it never ceases to amaze me how ignorant people are of computing. I would guestimate that 95% of the people out there are functionally illiterate when it comes to computers. They know just enough to be dangerous. I cannot even begin to count the number of “dumb” questions I get from friends, family, people I support in an IT support capacity. Here’s some gems:

    Where’s the “any” key.
    Do I need a computer to use your software?
    I have a message on my screen that says: ‘Disk Full’. What can that be?
    Or the desktop with hundreds of file icons because people have no concept of file management.

    I could go on for days….months… ugh!

    “We” (i.e. the people reading this) are in an extremely small minority. I don’t think that most “geeks” realize the scope and breadth of the amount of ignorance when it comes to computing knowledge. They take their knowledge for granted and assume that “normal” people have a clue when it comes to computing. But, unfortunately, we don’t live in that world.

    Apple very smartly IMHO have designed things to keep the great “unwashed” masses (the 95%) out of trouble. I think that they will have great success with the iPad. But, then again, what do I know. Cheers.

  7. Peter Says:

    “99% of users are just happy with what they got.”

    Which explains Windows market share.

  8. Will Says:

    Well surely a good compromise is seen in Android with a smart process manager that will suspend and resume your apps seamlessly, meaning you will always have enough memory and CPU free for calling people, music and browsing. This is invisible to the user and can actually be observed by using something like android task killer; just start some apps, then start a memory intensive process (streaming from youtube or the internet) and then look at the running apps. The disappeared ones will wakeup at some time interval that is specified on their manifest (like every 30 mins for twitter clients) and nobody is any the wiser. The truth about advanced task killer style apps are they have been written for the power user who wants his memory back now, not in 30 mins when he starts something else.

  9. James Says:

    And then their is this:

    For a while this was the first link when you googled: facebook login. What happened was thousands of Facebook users became very confused because they didn’t go to the page they expected. They did not figure it out. There are over 1800 comments and many (most?) ask what happened to facebook and complain that they just want to login.

    If you can read this blog posting and the above site and still think people understand the first thing about what they are doing on the internet, you have to be in complete denial. That is why the complaints from TechCrunch and other tech websites when it comes to what Apple is doing, are just completely irrelevant. Apple knows this, most tech geeks don’t.

  10. Steven Says:

    @ James

    Oh dear, I see what you mean. I honestly had no idea people could be so stupid when using the internet. I have been one of the people demanding multi-tasking for my iPhone but I now see why Apple are resisting.

    Having said that they could always have an option in the settings to turn multi-tasking on. This could come with a warning that it is for advanced users only. No doubt there will still be some idiots who turn it on without realising what it does though.

  11. kurttrail Says:

    I have a Droid, and never use a task killer. What happens with the Android OS is that processes get shut down after not being used for a while, and you need memory for some app that is active.

    Most of the Android users that use task killers are idiots that don’t know how Android works, and probably should have bought an iPhone.

    I’m sure that Apple has a very large market that is quite happy with a devise that is dumb down enough so even a moron can use it. Those of us that ain’t morons and/or fanboys, but are tech-knowledgeable won’t be happy with Big Brother continuing to cater to morons.

    And now that Apple seems to be siding with corporate content providers over small developers prior to the release of the iPad, I’m quite certain I’ll never buy an Apple product ever again.

    I’ll not pay money to let some corporation treat me like a moron, who need some big corporation make decisions for me. But I guess Apple has a lot of sheep that do need some corporation to save them from themselves.

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