Tag Archive | "operating system"

There IS Innovation in the Tablet Market; Even if There Wasn’t, Grid is Not the Answer

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grid osYesterday the company behind the infamous Joojoo, Fusion Garage, revealed itself as the real name behind the fake company TabCo which had been teasing the tech world for the last few weeks about an upcoming tablet.

During the announcement webcast, Fusion Garage did indeed reveal a new tablet which turned out to be the Grid 10 device that we saw pass through the FCC a few weeks back (though at the time we didn’t know it had anything to do with TabCo). You can find full specs, links, photos, and more at the Grid 10 tracking page in our mobile device database.

In a genuine surprise, Fusion Garage released not only the Grid 10, but also a smartphone called the Grid 4. The Grid 4 is quite thin at 9.6mm. You can also find full specs and plenty more for the Grid 4 in our database.

Both of these devices run Fusion Garage’s own ‘Grid’ OS which is not Android, but is based on the Android kernel. Grid will be able to run Android applications natively, but neither of the devices will have official access to the Android Market, nor will they have the usual Google applications that you find on an Android device, like YouTube, Gmail, Maps, etc. To compensate for this, both will come pre-installed with the Amazon App Store as well as Fusion Garage’s own Grid application store.

Devices aside, I can’t help but comment on some of the remarks that Fusion Garage made during their webcast.

According to Fusion Garage’s CEO, Chandra Rathakrishna, Apple’s iPad is the only real tablet in town, while Android tablets offer nothing but “parody”. Specifically, Chandra said that there is no innovation in the Android tablet market and that companies out there are offering nothing but sameness. He also went on record as saying that Fusion Garage would change that, that the market needs a “shakeout”.

I have to wholeheartedly disagree with Chandra’s remarks. Not only is there innovation in the Android tablet market, but even if there wasn’t, Grid is not the answer.

If anything, Apple has been the stagnant one in the tablet field thus far. Sure, they may have arguably started the market, but they’ve added very little to their initial iPad offering. Don’t get me wrong, the iPad is certainly a good product, but between the iPad and iPad 2, there isn’t much except for an increase in speed, reduction of weight and girth, and some cameras. That’s not innovation, it’s just improving on what’s already there.

Meanwhile, some rather brave companies have been experimenting in the Android tablet field with features and functions that Apple simply doesn’t offer with the iPad at this point.

Look at Asus. Their Eee Pad Transformer, which docks to a keyboard and can then be folded closed like a netbook, has been very well received in the market, and is empowering people to use their tablet in situations where they otherwise wouldn’t. They’ve also got that excellent looking Eee Pad Slider launching soon, which keeps the keyboard hidden away under the screen when you don’t want it, and they’ve thrown in a full-sized USB port for connecting useful peripherals like a flash drive or mouse.

And it doesn’t stop there.

Have a look at the HTC Flyer, the first Android tablet equipped with an active digitizer for serious digital inking. Then there’s the ThinkPad Tablet which seems to combine functions of the Transformer with the Flyer by offering a dockable folio with full keyboard and mouse, which folds down like a netbook, as well as an active digitizer for digital inking and notetaking.

Not to say that these devices have been or will be smash hits, but these companies are experimenting and innovating, and producing devices that are all stepping stones toward more productive and useful devices that can be used in scenarios where the iPad (and the Grid 10 for that matter) cannot.

I hate to put down Fusion Garage; they’re a company of around only 100 people, and have limited funding compared to the likes of Apple and Google. I appreciate their vision, but I don’t think they’ve been realistic about what they can accomplish.

In the webcast, they offered their Grid OS as the cure to their perceived sense of sameness that they say is found in the Android tablet market, but from their own demonstrations, they’ve done nothing but offer up different (not new) ways of doing the same old things.

During their demonstration of the Grid OS, I saw lots of eye-candy and even some cool visual design, but little in the way of intuitiveness. The home screen, for instance, works like a big open canvas where you can place all of your apps. The area is so far zoomed in that there is actually a map at the top right of the screen to indicate where you are on the home screen. I’m sorry Fusion Garage, but if the homescreen of your device requires a map to be used effectively, you’ve failed on ease-of-use:

grid hom screen

I hesitate to even start talking about the “3D tilt” that they’re so proud of. They’ve got this scrolling animation that slightly tilts the list that you’re scrolling through. Listen to how they laud it on their site without even saying how it’s beneficial:

“Scroll your contacts quickly with a 3D tilt. Find your contacts quickly and easily.”

“Have a big video collection? Scroll through it quickly with Grid10’s 3D tilt. Scrolling through your collection has never looked better.”

I’m sorry FG, but tilting the thumbnails on a list by 5 degrees or so as I scroll doesn’t not make my movie collection look any better than if it just scrolled with no tilting.

The problem with “3D tilt” is that it does nothing but distract visually. It doesn’t help you find anything in the list any easier than if it didn’t tilt. It isn’t even there to indicate the direction of motion as that’s already accomplished with a non-tilting scrolling list. It’s pure eye-candy, and I’ve got a major problem with that. It’s like giving a race car curves to make it look cool instead of being aerodynamic — it’s flair with no function. You can see their silly 3D tilt effect here (and notice how you’re never really certain what part of the interface is going to pop our of where – lack of intuitiveness!):

Then there’s their video controls that we “haven’t seen anything like” which are just your basic video controls, which they managed to make more intrusive than putting the seek bar across the top or bottom of the screen like everyone else:

Image 72

The Grid interface isn’t the only thing with needless eye-candy. Fusion Garage’s entire presentation showed me little but wasted money. A small company doesn’t need to put on a big press event and parade around with an Apple costume on – people get this. But here is Fusion Garage, wasting money by building a big stage with moving parts for a virtual audience, and trying desperately to be like Apple or Google, even if people wouldn’t mind if they were just themselves.

I actually chortled to myself when they announced Grid; lights flared, and a big metal lattice with some squares bearing the “Grid” name lazily slid in from both sides of the stage. Once they stopped moving, Chandra said “So people, there you have it, Grid.” Much like 3D tilt, this was just eye-candy for the sake of it. There was absolutely no reason to waste money on fabricating and moving the stage like that. You can see the laughable spectacle here. I dare not even get started talking about the dub-step….

All the while, on the screen behind Chandra, you could watch a bunch of unnecessarily animated (and visually distracting *cough*3D tilt*cough) slides playing. Waste waste waste. Save that money and put it toward HCI testing.

The Grid OS showcases no new ideas but instead is just a whole new unintuitive operating system that they’re asking people to learn from the ground up. Not only that, but Grid brings along with it the disadvantage of not having official Android Market access, and missing out on some of the key apps that make the Android platform so useful. The ability to run Android apps natively is merely a crutch, as they won’t share the same interface design as the core Grid apps and those from the Grid application store.

Fusion Garage has not demonstrated anything revolutionary or innovative that I’ve seen. They’ve only introduced different ways to do things that we already do without issue on other mobile operating systems.

The Grid 10 is what the Joojoo should have been – an impressive product, for a small company, but nothing that’s going to take off.

Intel Atom Software Summit Round-up and Notes.

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I got myself a big piece of Intel info-marketing at the Intel Atom Software Summit this week and it’s very clear and very significant that Intel managed to drag something like 200 people away from the Computex show floor for 2.5hrs. Atom, MeeGo and AppUp are such important parts of the Intel strategy now that they are getting pushed hard and it seems to be at least raising some eyebrows. The Intel Atom Software Summit at Computex was aimed at the ODM, OEM and operating system community in an effort bring them all up to date about what you might call the continuum within the continuum. Intel talks about a horizontal line of silicon products that serve different markets (the ‘Compute Continuum’)but there’s a vertical within the Atom segment that includes software, user interface and applications. It starts with 6 Atom silicon platforms that support many operating systems. Windows and MeeGo getting special attention and getting their own application ecosystem which includes an application delivery framework, back-end billing, application marketing and developer support.

Here are some notes from the software summit that I hope outline the key points that Intel is trying to put across. The full slide set is available here. (PDF) More information links are included below.

Session notes

Navin Shenoy – VP Intel Asia Pacific introduced the compute continuum (Xeon, Core, Atom) by saying that “Software is the difference between success and failure” [slide: “User Experience”] and introduced Doug Fisher. VP Software and Services.

Doug presents…

[Slide: Mobile Internet is driving, possibly 10B units. ] The message here is that there’s a significant opportunity within the internet-connected device category.

Intel is a ‘Port of choice.” Multiple operating environments are offered. MeeGo Android Windows and Chrome were highlighted. [Sidenote: Chrome and Google are starting to appear more in the marketing i’m seeing.]



Value proposition Slide:



For OEMs:

  • Open platform – critical for value
  • Best internet Experience
  • Faster time to market

For Service provider:

  • Strong ecosystem
  • Reduce Churn – consistent environment across ecosystem

Value for Developers

  • Revenue opportunity.
  • Consistent tools and API.


MeeGo, joint OS build and UI framework highlighted. May release achieved. 1.0 reviews were good. Highlighted. on slide.


Doug introduced some partners who highlighted their experience and expectation for MeeGo. As you would imagine, all three partners highlighted good experiences and expectations!

Novell’s Guy Lunardi talks about MeeGo 1.0


Telekom Italia: We are participating with MeeGo on Cubo Vision. The product was ready in 4 months.

Orange and MeeGo;   Talks about value-add. Truly cross-platform device. No talk about real products. We can assume something is coming I guess.

Doung introduced demos of MeeGo 1.0 on netbook, IVI and Tablet.

X3T Tablet (3)

Message to developers: Amount of work to move apps to move from one product to another is minimal. Only 20% of code base re-write needed (user interface)

Tablet Demo:

Capture_00103 Capture_00104

See video from yesterday for more on the MeeGo Tablet UI.

[Chippy sidenote: I think this is known as ‘Info Launcher’ and is a product of the MeeGo Enabling Center in Taiwan. It should be available later in the year. Note too that user interfaces are being developed alongside MeeGo and don’t fall into the 6-month update cycle planned for MeeGo.]

AppUp – The Intel framework for application stores on MeeGo and Windows operating systems.

Peter Biddle demonstrates AppUp on MeeGo for tablets AND handhelds (video) first time ever.

Peter: We see phenomenal market in consumer software. We are engaging with Dev community. How:Dev program includes tools, sales channel and marketing.

Plea to audience: Work with us to create customers. Peter highlights this as the kick-start. [Chippy sidenote: Intel needs AppUp to be pre-installed on devices to succeed]

Peter talks about the efforts being done. The work to connect with top iPhone devs. Intel have hired some iPhone devs to help define ‘small’ developer requirements. See slide below.


Biddle: We need to enable devs to get reputation because that is a significant requirement for many small devs.

Soma Games on stage: demo game:

Konami on stage: Joe Morris talks about poetential. [Chippy: Would be great to see Konami games on the AppUp store.]


Peter continues on AppUp:

  • Planning on coming out of beta soon.
  • Not worried about our ability to attract developers. We need consumers.
  • Online user awareness campaign has started.
  • AppUp.com relaunched.
  • AppUp demo on a Moblin smartphone (port to MeeGo is not complete yet)

AppUp on MeeGo on Handset

Ellis Wang of Asus on stage:

Highlights the launch of Asus Access Cloud: Built on AppUp for notebook and Eee PC customers. Enhanced AppUp.




Note that ASUS and Acer have committed to releasing products that use MeeGo so one would expect that this service will appear there too.

Presentation ends.

At an after-event, we were given the opportunity to ask questions.

  • Is multi-user support going into MeeGo? Yes, it will be added to the roadmap.
  • MeeGo 1.1 will be released in October and will include always-on, sensor and gesture support. (It will support Oaktrail and Moorestown)
  • 4 main user interfaces are being worked-on by user groups. [Chippy sidenote: I’ve heard of 5. Handheld, tablet, netbook. In-vehicle and TV]
  • Intel has no position on the threat of patent issues with MeeGo (i.e.. No comment when I asked them whether MeeGo is guaranteed to be free from intellectual property issues.)
  • AppUp is not something that will go into Intel’s Android build.
  • Intel’s Android build is an official part of the Android work and work done will be sent back upstream.
  • Intel’s intention is to have X86 Android devices recognised by Google. (i.e. marketplace, maps , sync etc.)

The summary here is that Intel want to enable a choice of stacks that can run on Atom solutions. Intel wish to enable an application ecosystem for Windows and in Meego, another, free software choice for some selected markets such as in-vehicle, tablets and handhelds. The big take-away for me though is that a huge amount of Intel marketing effort is going into MeeGo and AppUp.


My hands-on overview of MeeGo 1.0 on a netbook.

A close-up demo of MeeGo’s tablet user interface on an Oaktrail platform.

Intel official slide set from Atom Software Summit

Intel Fact Sheet – MeeGo* and Intel AppUpSM Gain Momentum at Computex

Why I Hate Widget Based Home Screens on Mobile Operating Systems

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Several of the latest mobile operating systems have interfaces that are based on a very bothersome paradigm: the widget-oriented home screen. I really wish the people making the high level design/UI choices could step away from this awful interface concept and think outside the box to some degree (maybe look into what the First Else is doing?). Now, I’m not an interface designer, but I am someone who has used plenty of these devices and at very least, I can tell you why I hate widget-based home screens on mobile operating systems.

First, the players. The big two at the moment are Android and Maemo (there are also several Windows Mobile shells that suport widgets). Additionally, you may have recently seen the WePad [product page] interface demo, which has a widgetized home screen so large that you need a map to navigate it (literally!). All of these essentially use a multi-“desktop” design which allows the user to customize what widgets are on each desktop as they pan from one to the next.

android homescreen A widget is sort of like a tiny application which resides permanently on the home screen. It usually does a simple task, and generally offers little to no further functionality. When you think of the term ‘widget’ what comes to mind, exactly? I’ll tell you what comes to my mind… “shallow”.

What exactly do I mean by shallow? Well it’s just that: widgets do something extraordinarily simple. The thing that makes them shallow is that they offer such little functionality that they are practically worthless and become nothing more than a waste of CPU cycles. Generally they do something that could easily be recreated in the status bar. Take, for example, a clock widget. What does it do? It tells the time, perhaps in analog. Is that really useful to anyone? I doubt I’d even waste the space on my screen with an analog clock widget. Is the current time not already displayed in the status bar? How about a widget that shows some recent emails? Generally, the screen is so tight on space that you can only see, perhaps, the last 3 emails that you’ve received, and more often then not, the widget doesn’t sync up with your actual mail application (to mark mail as read, or delete it, etcetera), and then it becomes rather pointless.

Don’t even get me started on the cliché “slideshow” widget. Is anyone seriously flipping through their multiple desktops to find the slideshow widget so that they can enjoy some random images at 100×100 pixels?

maemo 5 Even homepage shortcuts, as widgets, can become pointless because of the multi-desktop approach. Should I seriously spend my time swiping through four or five different homes screen desktops to find the shortcut I placed? Wouldn’t it be easier and faster to have the web browser accessible at all times from the push of a button, then just pull up a list of bookmarks?

motoblurMotorola’s “Motoblur” interface manages to show just one Facebook status update, five words from a tweet, and four words from an email — all on a spacious 480×320 screen. Pathetic.

Even if some widgets do link into a deeper application and stay correctly in sync with them, the widget becomes pointless if the user wants to use a different application. Consider an RSS widget that displays a few posts from an RSS feed. Maybe it can launch out to a built-in RSS reader, but then the user is limited to using the built-in application because it is the only one that supports the widget, even if there is a better alternative application.

Mobile applications, which are already confined to small screens and slow (compared to x86) processing power, are already giving users a stripped down experience. What I’m trying to say is that mobile applications are already much like widgets themselves. They provide the essential functionality. Home screen widgets really don’t have a place anywhere on a mobile operating system. They are so simple that, more often then not, they are pointless. They frequently don’t provide any deeper functionality, and when they do, they only link in to one application, which limits the user from using other applications.

Many people laud widgets for providing “at-a-glance” info, which I don’t have a problem with, but that sort of information is what the status bar is designed for. One glance at a status bar could easily inform you of the time, battery life, new email, missed call, new text, new RSS items, etc., so why are users expected to waste screen space and device resources to have persistently running widgets? With a smart notification system, applications can call attention to themselves and alert that user that something is up (for instance, a new email has a arrived.) The user should be able to launch into the application just by tapping the notification, and do whatever it is that they need to do from the “full” interface of the application. The widget middle-man is entirely unnecessary.

iphone.pngMaybe my issue is simply the fact that widgets are so inconsistent. For the most part they are oddly shaped and they all work differently. If someone created a more inclusive widget, that did more than one random function, it might not be so bad. In fact, on the iPhone I use a bit of software called LockInfo (jailbreak only) which replaces the lock screen with what is essentially a glorified notification list, and I greatly prefer it over a bunch of widgets that are spread across multiple desktops. The great part about it is that we aren’t talking about a Facebook widget that shows one status update, we are actually getting a list of notifications that are directly generated from the Facebook application itself. So clicking on an application takes me straight there and I don’t deal with any widget middle-man. This is beneficial because if I want to use an alternative Facebook application, that application can generate its own notifications to go to the lock screen list, rather than being unable to link in to a proprietary Facebook widget. The concept here is a bit different from widgets, but I still have all of the at-a-glance info that I need right from this screen.

Please let me know in comments… am I the only one that hates widgets on mobile operating systems?

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