Monday, November 29, 2010

The App Mentality

Right now, when talking about tablet computers and their functionality, we usually discuss apps and how they expand the platform. Apple and Android devices alike access massive app stores that offer third party developers chances to offer dozens more tools that don’t come with the device naturally. In fact, for some manufacturers, the allure of the Android App store has made (or broken) their devices.

But, for those interested in more powerful applications or for specific enterprise functionality, Apps don’t always get the job done, at least not right out of the box. The iPad for example has been available for the better part of 8 months and is still gaining functions that its original users have long wanted, and almost all of them rely one or more third party apps.

Android tablets are now in the same place as Apple when its device was first launched. There are more than a hundred thousand apps available on the Android Marketplace, but they are almost all exclusively developed for smart phones. The resolution is lower and interfaces are designed for smaller screens, but with time that will change as the Android Marketplace share for tablet PCs continues to grow.

I’m largely restating the obvious though. What exactly should apps provide that the OS does not and does every passing week make it that much harder for anyone not named Apple or Google to provide a viable operating system for a tablet?

To start with, it depends on your perspective on touch screen computing. For many users, tablet PCs should come with native touch applications. And because those apps can be single access tools with low development costs, it’s not surprising that App stores are thriving. But, that doesn’t mean the Windows model won’t continue to work.

Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more robust advancements to the Windows operating system for touch computing, especially as Windows 8 grows in development between now and 2012. But, even with the current iteration of Windows 7 on a tablet (which I think works great), combined with third party tools like Thinix, you still need applications.

Office is good, as are a number of standard third party tools for Windows, but for a device to be truly effective as a tablet, it needs to be optimized for touch – not the on-the-fly OS tools used to interpret touch input as standard input. Devices like the TegaV2 are attractive for this very reason – the opportunity for dual OS operation (Android and Windows 7) gives owners both options.

If Apple didn’t have such an exclusionary policy about how apps are developed and approved in the App store, I think this conversion would be a lot more interesting. As it is, however, developers are essentially forced to develop iPad versions of their software first, then explore Android alternatives before looking into third party app stores. How will other devices like RIM’s PlayBook or rumoured Nokia devices compete? It remains to be seen, but the App model isn’t going anywhere any time soon.


cstevens said...

Microsoft does not have to wait for Windows 8 to enhance the interface for touch. In the old days Microsoft added features between releases wihtout charge.

The Vista TIP was a big improvment over XP Tablet, but was skipped ove by a lot of users - Vista took a long time to become stable and many "Vista Ready" computers were not Vista Ready.

Windows 7, which I think of as Vita RC 1, brought more improvements, but no real Tablet/Touch revolution.

The current batch of talets are not in the premium price range. The typicla $99 US upgrade price to Win 8 will be too high a cost for upgrading a lowere end tabet. This will discourge current purchases.

Come January 1 MS should commit to a Windows 7.X version with Tablet/Touch enhancements. Make it availble to ALL curent users at no chanrge. That may encourage purchases.

A tablet specific version is a horrible idea. Windows should install correctly for the available hardware. DO not fragment the OS. Durnig installtion it is just not that difficult to deterime/ask the screen size and resolution touch/ pen presence, etc and modify prefernces and settings to better suit the tablet. Defer or do not even start seldom used services when on battery.

MS OFFICE NEEDS TO BE MUCH MORE TOUCH FRIENDLY. If, for one month, MS were to bring in the exterminators and remove all mice keyboards from teh Windows, Office and executive teams offices, we would see a world of difference.

Install free Onenote on all devices with touch/pen. It wouldn't cost anthing since MS has kept Onenote such a secret that ther are nor sales to canibalize.

Hugo Gaston Ortega said...

Hi Mate,

Your comment is almost like taken from my head! I love it!

I have been harping on the Office team for year regarding enhancements for touch - like you, I argued not to release massive solutions but simply instruciotns on enhancing touch. Look at scroll bars, look at active title bars and possible embedded touch gestures to delete (like apple) or shuffle things around. I don't like the idea of simple updates however as "Power Toys" have been used for years but again this skipped most users by as most users are not power users and don't know how to look for, install or configure these power toys. I always thought the education process should start with OEMs to enhance the devices and preload these enhancements. Look at the TEGA v2, or several European Tablets that are all working on enhancing the shell - ahead of Microsoft - to ensure the end user experience is a good one!

Love your work amte. Keep the comments coming!