I finally was able to see some of the videos highlighting the new features of Android 3.0 Honeycomb, and I'm impressed. There are some features that I think are interesting, making for a unique user experience. Of course, I have yet to see a device actually use those features (the video for the Motorola Xoom tablet just played videos of the features, but didn't demo them), but the features seem interesting. Here is what I thought was impressive:
1. Scrollable Widgets: I'm not a big fan of widgets on a tablet screen, if only because it should be a launch area, not the point of the interface. That being said, it's an interesting concept: scroll through your content for your apps. Where Apple has you go into the app to see your content, you can see a "preview" of your content on the widget.
2. Screen Size: And I'm not talking resolution (though that was impressive), I'm talking about physical size. Have you ever tried to type with both hands in landscape mode on a Samsung Galaxy Tab? I did, once. It was cramped, difficult, and I thanked my lucky stars that I had an iPad. Motorola apparentlly saw that, and went with a much wider screen. Tablets aren't about putting it in your pocket, that's your smartphone. No, tablets are all about replacing your books in your backpack. And this size that Motorola came up with works, at least in landscape mode.
3. Buttonless Interface: This is rumored to be coming to the iPad in version two, and I'm impressed with the concept. Mostly because both my boys know they can easily exit out of what I'm doing if they press that button. Argh. It would be much better if it were gestures, though that could be easily learned by my boys as well.
So that's what stood out from the videos in the "demo" with which I was impressed. So does it make me want to ditch my iPad for Android? No. Why not?
1. The Marketplace: There are thousands of apps for Android.. but where do you find them all? You can't, unless you check all the various marketplaces. It reminds me of the trouble I had finding apps for my PocketPC.. you really have to hunt, all over, and through various websites to find the app you want. Sure, iTunes is closed, but I can find what I need/want, and move on. Hopefully Amazon can help consolidate the Android Marketplace and make apps easier to find.
2. Keyboard to Screen Ratio: I've heard of a lot of complaints about the iPad's keyboard taking up half the screen when you need it.. Motorola's Xoom with Honeycomb takes up at least 2/3rds of the screen, if not 3/4ths. If you didn't like the former, you are going to hate the latter.
3. Limited App Space: Perhaps it was because of the demo, or the videos, but the apps seemed limited to just the lower part of the screen, and you could have only 6 to maybe 8 there. That's it. Need more apps? I think it changed as you scrolled along the screen, but it didn't seem to make any difference. Why only the bottom of the screen? Because the rest of the space seemed dedicated to widgets. I could be wrong, but it would seem a little.. untidy to have these large widgets mixed up with the little app buttons. It would soon look cluttered, at least from what I could see. Hopefully I'm wrong.
4. Flash: Yes, I will admit it, on a portable environment and on the web, I don't like Flash. It's not because I don't like Flash in general, I just don't like Flash ads on the web. I love the fact that they don't work on the iPad, and I can just read the web. It also doesn't drain my battery, as it has been proven to do on Android platforms that support Flash. Does that mean Flash is dead? No, I think it's future is tied up in a development platform that can make native, well coded apps for mobile platforms. But if a website doesn't have a non-Flash alternative, I'm going to one that does.
And, of course, the most important reason, I love using my iPad. It's a great tablet, and does everything I need. In fact, I found that just about everything I do on the main computer, I can do on the iPad with the appropriate apps. But that's the subject of another post. ^_^
So, does that mean I think that the Motorola Xoom is going to be just as disappointing as the Galaxy Tab? No! I think it's going to be the best thing for both Android and the tablet platform. Google has raised the bar in a number of areas, which will ultimately push the tablet platform into the main computing experience. Well done Google, and Motorola! Let's hope this thing ships, and is affordable for those who choose an alternative for current tablet platforms. And I can't wait to see HP release their WebOS tablet, and see what they bring to the table.