Multitasking-iPhone/Windows Phone 7

Discussion in 'Future Products' started by kkloh, Mar 29, 2010.

  1. kkloh

    kkloh Member

    Hi Mike,

    I refer to your Latest Announcement Email (3/27/2010). In it, you advised that "..future new features (particularly those with a lot of new user interface) may be iPhone-only, and when it comes time to replace your phone / handheld, the best choice for running Pleco will probably be an iPhone or an iPod Touch".

    I am looking to replacing my hardware. I am totally unfamiliar with iPhone, being a WM user all the time. I am very comfortable with the multitasking feature of WM, which allows me to keep Pleco open all the time and switch to it whenever I need to lookup words or read flash cards. I have read that iPhone/Windows Phone 7 is not multitasking in that a non-proprietary app will be closed whenever another app is run. Please advise if this applies to Pleco iPhone also. I must be able to instantly switch to Pleco and resume where I left off.

    I look forward to your reply. Many thanks.

    kkloh
  2. mikelove

    mikelove 皇帝 Staff Member

    You can't run Pleco in the background on iPhone yet, but it's been widely suggested that Apple will be adding multitasking to iPhone this summer. Even now, though, the iPhone's built-in apps (email / web / SMS) do effectively run in the background, so while you can't have Pleco running in the background while you're using them, if you're, say, reading an email or browsing the web and want to quickly look up something in Pleco without losing your place, you can launch Pleco, do your lookup, then go right back to where you left off in web browsing or emailing.

    But right now, for a fully multitasking version of Pleco, your best bet is Windows Mobile 6.5. (Windows Phone 7 won't even be out until the end of the year, and who knows how much it'll change between now and then) Android's the only other mobile OS that currently supports multitasking, and we have no plans to develop a version of Pleco that anytime soon - our focus now is on delivering the best possible Chinese dictionary software on iPhone / iPod / iPad and hopefully luring people away from other platforms with that :)
  3. Sarevok

    Sarevok 进士

    Well, once there is proper multi-tasking implemented on iPhone, I might be more willing to consider it. I don't treat my device as a simple phone with a few oh-so-cool multi-media functions, but as a complex tool for my translation/interpretation work and language learning... with the added bonus in the form of GSM module thrown in :) That means not only running several dictionary engines at the same time (Pleco being most important of them) and switching between them, but also doing a lot of copy&pasting and text editing. Searching those dictionaries while listening to Chinese podcasts or watching Chinese soap operas (during commuting). My current device can do all that (after spending hours on xda and MoDaCo forums, a whole lot of tweaking around and nearly throwing my phone out of the window during the process... but hey, that's all part of the fun with WM :)), while iPhone cannot meet these requirements at the moment... as I see it (well, that's my impression after playing with my friend's iPhone once or twice). Once it does, I might be a bit less of an Apple-hater (however, I'll still probably have issues with the current trend of reducing the number of programmable HW buttons to an absolute minimum... the very trend Apple started with their iPhone).
  4. numble

    numble 状元

    Well you can certainly listen to music while using one application and having Safari (the web browser) running in the background, without jailbreaking. But you can't switch between other multiple apps unless you jailbreak. Even though I've jailbroken I've rarely used the multitasking feature.
  5. mfcb

    mfcb 状元

    then how to stay online in chat apps like QQ, Fetion, msn? its not supported? starting pleco to look up words you encounter during chatting, means you have to leave the chat?
    cant imagine i will switch to any of these...
  6. mikelove

    mikelove 皇帝 Staff Member

    mfcb - Chat can be handled beautifully on iPhone with Push Notifications, actually - e.g. http://www.meebo.com/iphone/. No need to sign out or to miss an important message that comes in.
  7. flameproof

    flameproof 探花

    We are two now!

    What I like to see, Mike, how about a feature table were you compare Pleco for the different O/S versions? I understand not all functions work on iPhone (yet). Pleco functions are a major reason for me to decide on hardware.

    I want to get rid of my piece-of-hit Diamond, but will wait for WM7 and iPhone HD which I guess will come out some time this summer.
  8. mikelove

    mikelove 皇帝 Staff Member

    As of the next update, our iPhone software should basically support every WM feature except for Instant Access (mostly supplanted by the built-in web browser) and the Oxford dictionary (not licensed yet for iPhone, though there's still a chance we might be able to license it in the future). As far as a comparison chart, it wouldn't be difficult to add one, but honestly, post-iPhone-flashcard-update the hardware recommendation pages on our website will probably all be pushing iPhone pretty heavily over WM. WM (now Windows Phone or WP) 7 won't be coming out until the end of the year, and at least initially we won't support it at all - we might develop a version of Pleco for it down the line, but it's not backwards-compatible with old WM apps and so won't be able to run our current WM software. (at least not without some sort of heavily hacked ROM)
  9. mfcb

    mfcb 状元

    hehe, mike, then why not follow my earlier idea of giving us WM users an API-dll, so that we can extend functionality for ourselves? might well be, that there suddenly would be a burst of "add-on's"... i have several ideas, that i don't want to disclose right now :roll:

    another thing we certainly need on WM as a final gift is full-text-search inside pleco on user-dicts... i know how i could do it using a copy of my user-dict with a little bit fiddling around with sqlite, even could build an HMI for it, but i would want it integrated in pleco...
  10. mikelove

    mikelove 皇帝 Staff Member

    An API would be a ton of work, that's the problem with that - take all of the issues we have with people doing obscure combinations of preferences options and multiply that by a factor of 10 and that's what having a public API would be like. More work than adding some of those features ourselves...

    As far as full-text searches of user dictionaries, though, those don't really require any new UI to speak of, so they should certainly be doable on WM at the same time that we do them on iPhone (or soon after).
  11. mfcb

    mfcb 状元

    i am just thinking of a very simple API (to start with)... just like specifying search string and the dict, and get the definition and/or pinyin returned... maybe some additional functions, e.g. to get a list of licensed dict's. we can read the flashcard-db with sqlite ourselves, no need for an API there.
  12. mikelove

    mikelove 皇帝 Staff Member

    That's a bit of a gray area licensing-wise, actually - would make it really easy for people to extract the entire text of a dictionary, which some publishers are less comfortable with than others.
  13. Ivan006

    Ivan006 Member

    With the Windows phone 7, is your team not going to at least try to make a pleco version for this platform?

    I find it a bit strange (and a little unfair) that only Apple users are going to benefit from this program. I don't have an Apple product, and I like the Windows version of Pleco. Once the phone comes out, I'll be upgrading to this phone (Windows phone 7). :(

    I guess you'll need to see if the phone is a success right?
  14. mikelove

    mikelove 皇帝 Staff Member

    It's actually not just a question of whether it'll be a success, it's also a question of whether it'll be technically feasible. The development environment for Windows Phone 7 is very, very limited compared to what we had to work with on earlier versions of Windows Mobile, and it might turn out that we simply can't get acceptable performance out of it with our dictionary database format. People have been asking us for years to do a BlackBerry version of Pleco, and thanks to similar technical limitations on those we simply haven't been able to develop one - a simple dictionary database query takes around 100x as long to complete on a current BlackBerry as it does on a first-generation iPhone. Plus, WP7 unlike Android doesn't even offer the possibility of running native code, so there's pretty much no way around having to do a total (or near-total) rewrite of Pleco to work with it. So at this point, if we support Windows Phone 7 at all I'd say that it's more likely we'll support it with a simple client app for a web-based version of Pleco than that we'll support it with a full-featured offline product.

    That being said, though, WP7 is still based on Windows CE just like earlier versions of Windows Mobile are, and given the ingenuity of the Windows Mobile ROM hacking community, I'd say there are pretty decent odds that someone will cook up a custom WP7 ROM that can run older Windows Mobile apps. Plus, Microsoft seems to be moving long-term towards a strategy of putting desktop Windows on mobile devices - Steve Ballmer has hinted at that a few times, and their recent efforts on tablets are certainly a move in that direction - so that might be another way for us to get Pleco on newer Windows phones. I'd venture to guess that if WP7 is a flop, Microsoft will start to feel desperate enough that they'll ditch Windows CE altogether and base their next mobile OS on desktop Windows (aided by faster / lower-power Intel Atom chips), and we'd very likely be interested in supporting / able to support that.

    Out of curiosity, if we were to offer an Android version of Pleco, would you consider that a reasonable substitute for a Windows Phone 7 version, or is it really Windows specifically that you're interested in? (i.e., is this related to positive feelings towards Windows or negative feelings towards iPhone?)
  15. sfrrr

    sfrrr 状元

    I'm trying to load the dice here.

    If you offered an Android version of PD, I don't need Win mobile/7/etc.

    OTOH, if you offered a full-featured Win mobile/7/etc., I wouldn't need an Android version.

    Anything but iPhone or WebOS. I'm not that easy.
  16. mikelove

    mikelove 皇帝 Staff Member

    Poor little webOS... they'd actually be considerably easier to support than Windows Phone 7, I think; in fact, they might even be easier to support than Android on account of their native development library allowing for pretty much full access to the hardware (drawing / capturing input / etc without having to go through Java or JavaScript). Just a problem of market share, really.
  17. Ivan006

    Ivan006 Member

    I have nothing against Apple, they produce good products. Android has some good phones too. You've mentioned before though, in one of the threads, that there are too many Android devices and to set Pleco software to work on every device would be to hard for you. This is one of the reasons why I don't have an Android phone.

    I've tried playing with both phones and I can't say I enjoy using either one of them. Maybe I won't like the WP7 either, we'll have to see. I've also tried using the pleco software on both the windows phone (HD2) and the iphone 3G, both of them being my friends phones, and I was a little surprised that I preferred the windows version (not because of the screen size). I just don't want the Windows version to be dismissed from the newer version of phones that are coming. Do you think there's a possibility that the current windows version of pleco will work with the new version of WP7? Is it really that hard to port over?
  18. mikelove

    mikelove 皇帝 Staff Member

    And one of the reasons we've been less-than-eager to support Android, but if we do support Android we won't necessarily support every Android phone. My guess would be that we'd have a short list of "approved hardware," hardware which we actually owned test models of and which we were committed to fix bugs / test new versions on; for any other Android device, you'd be welcome to try to install Pleco and we'd offer any support we could, but we wouldn't necessarily promise to fix any device-specific problems you were having.

    Why did you prefer the Windows version? This is very interesting - we've gone to a lot of effort to make longtime Pleco users feel comfortable with our iPhone software, even supporting all sorts of UI conventions (definition / list on the same screen e.g.) that are completely un-iPhone-like, so if there's something in the WM version that you were missing on iPhone (and that's technically feasible to bring to iPhone - Instant Access continues to be a no-go sadly) we'd certainly like to know about it. (same goes for anyone else reading this)

    It's very very hard to port over if we have to do it as a native Windows Phone 7 app; pretty much a total rewrite, and there's no guarantee the finished product would even perform well. There are a number of open-source libraries we use on Palm/WM/iPhone (and would be able to use on Android) that aren't available on Windows Phone 7 and can't easily be made available, so there are some low-level changes we'd need to make to areas like our flashcard database system that wouldn't be required on any other current mobile platform (except maybe BlackBerry). It's highly unlikely we'd be able to get a handwriting recognition engine on WP7 either - the one we use now wouldn't work, and I don't actually know of anyone with a good Chinese handwriting recognizer written in the sort of fully-managed memory-protected .NET code that would allow it to work on WP7, so if we wanted Chinese handwriting in a WP7 app we'd probably have to go server-based for it.

    However, since Windows Phone 7 is still based on Windows CE just like Windows Mobile, there's a good chance someone may hack it to run native-code apps, which would make it much much easier to run Pleco - we haven't developed a non-WM Windows CE version of Pleco because there's no clear set of hardware to target, but Windows Phone 7 hardware is tightly controlled enough that if WP7 devices did prove able to run Windows CE apps there's a very good chance we'd be able to update Pleco to support them.
  19. yottaflops

    yottaflops Member

    Now that the release of Windows Phone 7 is getting closer, I'm wondering if you have any updates about the possibility of developing a version for WP7 at some point. I'm pretty much set on getting the Windows Phone 7, but I really enjoy using Pleco (on my current WM6.5 phone). It would therefore be great if I can run some version of it on my new phone.
  20. mikelove

    mikelove 皇帝 Staff Member

    Not anytime soon, no. I don't think WP7 even supports Chinese text display in its initial release (even webOS managed that), and it's not expected to have Chinese input support until mid-2011, so we couldn't even think about possibly considering starting work on a WP7 port until then. It also requires everything to be written in .NET, there's no possibility of running native code as there is on Android, so ironically, while with Android we can keep most of our cross-platform code intact, on WP7 we'd have to completely rewrite our software from scratch. I don't even know if it would be possible to get our handwriting recognizer ported to .NET - ditto for OCR.

    Plus, the default user interface controls are so simple / primitive that to get something like the "real Pleco experience" running on it we'd pretty much have to do the entire UI from the ground up, rather than relying on Microsoft's built-in systems for text input / lists / etc. And there's no support for in-app add-on purchases as far as we can tell, we'd only be able to sell entire "bundles" with no possibility of future upgrades. And it has a closed app distribution system like iPhone, so we'd be in the same situation we are on that where if users have problems purchasing our software all we can do is tell them to write to Microsoft.

    Also, I think the best thing for the mobile software world now is for us to coalesce around a benevolent Apple-Google duopoly - one polished, curated experience and one crazy open free-for-all; developers have their hands full with two platforms as-is, and Apple and Google seem to be doing a fine job at keeping each other honest without any other serious competitors. More platforms means more time spent on platform-specific issues and less time on making great software, so ultimately the quality of everyone's mobile software suffers. So I wouldn't want to do anything to encourage people to buy WP7 phones at this stage.

    The one real possibility for getting Pleco on WP7 soon would be if one of the mobile hacker groups figures out a way to access the underlying Windows CE operating system and run regular Windows CE / Windows Mobile apps alongside dedicated WP7 ones; you'd probably need to re-flash the ROM, but that's never been much of a problem on HTC devices. There'd be a whole lot of interest in doing this in general, I think - lots of old WM/WCE apps that won't or can't be ported to WP7 anytime soon - so if it's technically possible I imagine it'll be done before Christmas.

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