Skip to main content

Multitasking support for WP7 detailed & updated with more information

The Microsoft keynote at Mobile World Congress definitely didn’t disappoint those of us that have been hungry for more details on the direction of our platform of choice.

One of the main things that Windows Phone 7 has gotten knocked for is the lack of multitasking for third party applications. The big news of the day is that Microsoft has committed to deliver multitasking support for Windows Phone 7 during the 2011 calendar year.

During the keynote, Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore demonstrated how multitasking would work. Part of the multitasking interface is seamless. If you navigate away from an application and come back, the application will not only pick up where it left off, but it will do it quickly and efficiently. Belfiore also demonstrated an early view of the task switcher for Windows Phone. Pressing and holding the back button launches the UI (which looks like a poor man’s version of the WebOS card-based interface). We did not see a demo of killing apps.

One of the best things about multitasking for a lot of people is what this means for third-party music apps like or Slacker Radio. During the demo we saw Slacker Radio playing in the background while reading email and otherwise using the phone in a normal manner. Additionally, it appears that third-party music apps can be controlled using the playback controls which appear at the top of the screen when the volume buttons are pressed.

All-in-all, this looks to be a big year for Windows Phone 7. Any thoughts on multitasking for Windows Phone? Is this a key feature for you? Talk it up in the comments section!

Update: Hi all, Dieter Bohn here. Tim has broken it down pretty darn well above based on what Microsoft presented today. On top that that, we have a few more details on how multitasking will work on Windows Phone 7 - join us after the break!

So here's the deal: everybody is using the term "Multitasking" in different ways and so it's essentailly more of a marketing term for "get your apps launched quickly" than "apps run in real time in the background." Apple was derided a bit for not having "true multitasking" with their iOS update - instead they had background services - but now that it's out nobody really seems to mind.

I suspect that it's going to be a similar story once Microsoft unveils the full details on how multitasking on Windows Phone operates. In essence, when you leave an app what it does it very quickly pause and save its state in "deep hibernation." Then when you relaunch it, it is able to grab that information and relaunch very quickly. So you could accuse Microsoft of having "multitasking lite." However apps will be able ot perform certain services in the background - the example of Slacker being able to continue playing music even after you leave the app is a perfect example. This is very similar to what Apple did with iOS multitasking - apps freeze in the background but there is a discrete set of services that they can continue to use when they're not in front.

We also hear that certain apps will be able to periodically 'wake' themselves while in the background to grab small pieces of data. So in a well-written third party app you will still see new infomration when you re-open it. The perfect example is a Twitter app that could grab new tweets from time to time so that when you reopen it after it's been closed for a long time it won't feel so out of date.

So to sum up: Multitasking on Windows Phone 7 looks to be a combination of very fast pause, hibernate, and wake states combined with a set of multitasking services like iOS offers. If that doesn't sound like true multitasking to you, well, we bet that when you actually use it that won't matter - just ask an iOS user how often their version of multitasking gets in the way. iOS offers local notifications, push notifications, task completion (for finishing uploads), saved state, audio, voip, and location. For the vast majority of use cases, that covers most users.

We're sure that Microsoft will clear up exactly which multitasking services apps will be able to take advantage of while in their background hibernation state. So far we know that music can play and apps can periodically grab new information. Hopefully there will be more to come.

  • The quick switching, or rather in this case it's just a quick view of the back list really becuase if you noticed when he went back to one game and then did it again the order changed. Anyways, I like that and I'm sure killing apps won't be hard to do, they could add a little X in the corner of the windows like they do when you unpin a tile. Or another way to do it could be to just tap and hold for a menu to open with the close command. Hell, why not just have both ways? I doubt they can do what webOS does and have you just flick it up out of the list, I have a feeling that sorta UI interaction is probably patented by Palm long ago.
  • Where are the CDMA phones??? Why no new devices???Yes, the update info was interesting, but over half the presentation was rehashing what they've already shown us, we got no new devices and no Verizon/Sprint love.Bitter.
  • CDMA first half of 2011.
  • Yeah the update with support CDMA then...but no hints at devices at all?? Lame.
  • "Microsoft’s CEO also confirmed that the update will bring CDMA support to the Windows Phone 7 platform, and that Windows Phone 7 devices will launch in the first half of 2011."
  • "...over half the presentation was rehashing what they've already shown us..."True.But if we are on this forum, then we probably already know plenty about WP and are purposefully seeking out more info about it. MWC has people of all OS "cults" and they most-likely haven't seen all the features of WP and may have forgotten about some. Office Suite, as an example, is incredibly bland subject matter, and is tough to promote to the masses, but is the primary reason I have chosen this OS.I think that Balmer and Belfiore did a great job by continuing to remind people what Windows Phone is capable of. I'm not a marketing expert, but I bet my opinion is common.
  • Rather lame keynotes. Nothing too exciting as most of the features should have been there from the get go. Also no mention of new hardware. Being in the US, news about Nokia isn't terribly exciting.
  • Watching Ballmer and to some extent the Nokia CEO in action makes me wanna cry. Not one word of self critism regarding the extremely delayed update which needed to be out month ago to fix critical bugs affecting end users like the marketplace crash. Instead they've spent half the time rehashing stuff that's been in WP7 since launch, patting themselves on the back and celebrating how great everything is.Newsflash MS and Nokia, the IPhone 5 and Honeycomb is around the corner. Even end of 2011 is too late to enter the battle against the latest generation from Cupertino and Google. Is this attitude of collective self dellusion that's going to be responsible for WP7's failure should that happen which I hope it won't.
  • OH come on, not this "too late" bullshit again. Seriously is that all people think about? The cellphone market isn't a house, isn't a car, it's something people buy and tend to update/change if not once a year then every 2 years. There is no "late" in a market that's always in flux and rapidly growing, by that logic even Google was "late" to the smartphone market when it release Android 1.5, which no one even cared about and quite a few took shots at iirc. Yet a year or so later and version 2.1 and wow, look at it now.Ballmer repeatedly said that there is "more work to do" and so on, as for the delay in the first update, if it's due to one of you partners be it OEM or carrier do you do the stupid thing and go out infront of loads of people and start the blame game? Do you even work in business? Nov8 to March8 is 4 months, that's not that long when you put it into context, unless you want half the WP7 users to get an update and the other half not to? What sorta moaning will you do if you get left out while others have it, which happens on android so often? I guess it's fine if it's Google not trying to force updates to everyone but when MS decides everyone is going to get the update so thus has to delaying so everyone does get it for XX reason it's now the end of the world.
  • So I guess its fine with you that the bug where an enduser has to reboot his phone in order to "repair" the marketplace app that broke by just browing the market hasn't been (hot)fixed in 4 month? You gotta f*cking kidding me pal. MS and Nokia talking about being agile make me laughing so hard. At the beginning MS announced that they have the capability to release firmware updates OTA. Now you won't hear a single word about this anymore. Why? Because the carriers dictate the update schedule. Just great.I AM a WP7 Developer who loves the platform but I believe with this management in place it won't survive.
  • "At the beginning MS announced that they have the capability to release firmware updates OTA. Now you won't hear a single word about this anymore. Why? Because the carriers dictate the update schedule. Just great."No, that is not true. Carriers are allowed to delay an update for only one cycle. While I fully believe Microsoft should have never given carriers this ability, they needed to in order to placate them, simply due to the history with Windows Mobile 5 and 6. Believe in rumors is only going to fester the wrong ideas. I do which Microsoft would come out and admit why it's taking longer than anticipated for the NoDo release. Even if it's similar to "we are all learning from mistakes and trying to progress through issues while we ready the NoDo update." Something, other than "it's coming in the next few weeks." MS needs to do a better PR job around WP7.
  • "At the beginning MS announced that they have the capability to release firmware updates OTA. Now you won't hear a single word about this anymore. Why? Because the carriers dictate the update schedule. Just great."False. It's because of data being expensive in some areas and the higher risk of downloading/installing a ROM update, without backing up the device OTA.It was *always* the case that small updates were to be OTA, but big updates were always tethered.