Friday, March 07, 2008

The iPhone is more like Palm OS than OS X?

Two interesting points from recent Daring Fireball posts about TouchOS (formerly known as iPhone OS X):
  1. No multitasking. iPhone OS switches apps, exiting on switch.
  2. Apps only have access to their own data (sandbox). (I think they may have access to some common pooled data though.)

Both of these limitations were part of the original US Robotics PalmPilot OS (PalmOS), and years ago conventional wisdom said Palm desperately needed a multitasking OS. (I would have had a different set of priorities myself; I thought the memory management issues were much more important than the multitasking problems.)

Jobs, during yesterday's presentation, said something like iPhone OS "draws heavily from OS X". DF has hinted the same thing over the past six months -- "inspired by OS X, but not OS X".

We need a name for this OS, maybe TouchOS. There's obviously a lot in common with Tiger 10.4, but the iPhone team did some radical surgery to build the TouchOS. Only they know the basis for these decisions -- hardware limitations, memory limits, security issues, stability, desperation ...

The lack of multitasking suggests TouchOS can't do Spotlight, or any indexing tool -- that requires multitasking. I wonder how many odd functional omissions are related to underlying OS issues. (The lack of task management, I'm convinced, must come from Jobs himself. I suspect he simply hates To Do lists.)

I'm not worried about the multitasking limitations. There's obviously enough available to enable enough functionality to succeed, the similarities to PalmOS 1.0 are really more curious than important.


  1. this can't be completely true. Music keeps playing while you do other things. Your email can keep checking on a scheduled basis while you do other things...--Andrew

  2. Yeah, that's why I hedged about 'enough functionality' -- should have been clearer.

    For example, you can talk and use an App!

    So some apps can multitask, but not (at this time) SDK apps.

  3. Heh, you're the #1 google result for
    iphone palm similarities

    On a possibly even more crucial surface level, I think the main menu is the biggest link to Palm of old, very similar! Apple made some improvements:

    * hardware wise, reducing to a single PHYSICAL "home" button was a brilliant simplification

    * flick gesture between pages (removing titles for different pages, and limiting each to how many can appear on screen)

    * 4 permanent links that apper on all screens

    but the similarities are blatant: squared off linear arrangement, time and battery info at the top, all icons have a distinct look and feel, etc. Compared to the Android/G1 approach its even more obvious; Android seems to be following some kind of clunky (IMO) desktop metaphor. (And WinCE had theirs modeled on Outlooks "today" page- it wasn't bad, actually, if more "Organizer" centric... Palm copied that in fact, to decent effect, and there's a hint of it in Calendar's "list" view")

    I've heard a rumor that Palm people were hired by Apple but was never sure.

    "Steve Jobs hates To Do lists" is an interesting idea. I remember laughing at a giant Apple Store poster that showed the memo app with a To Do list written on it, just like I had to 'til the app store opened and I got Appigo's ToDo ( <- most "Apple-ish" app I've seen )

  4. Great observation on the 'to do' note pad. I think Jobs must hate task lists. I think he wants us to schedule our tasks.

    I hate to admit I'm doing more of that now. Maybe the Great Leader is right?

    Funny about the Google rank. I really don't try to get ranked, but sometimes Google likes me.