The next Android flagship: Nexus Prime (Video)

Update (10/08/2011):The launch of the next Android flagship has been postponed because of Steve Jobs death – a gentle act. The launch will take place in London, October 27th.

BTW: I don’t feel like writing a tribute to Steve Jobs, so many others have and there is not a word that I could add to praise this great visionary without whom we likely wouldn’t be where we are with computing today. When I read that message in the morning on my way to work in the subway, I almost started to cry – something that happens really rarely to me.
Thanks for everything, Steve. Thanks for reinventing computing every once in a while, making the use of computers a joyful thing to everybody!

I haven´t been writing much lately, especially not about Android devices – I felt really bored by all the new devices that did not change much.

Most of the new devices are pretty good, at least those that you can consider flagship devices – and if you are not into spending much money for such a useless thing as a smartphone (or simply don´t have that much money at hand), there are plenty of OK mid range devices.

Soon this age of Android boredom is going to end, new devices are going to be released, but more importantly, the Android platform (the software, to make it perfectly clear what I mean) is going to be renewed with the next iteration of Android that is supposed to be numbered 4.0 and has the code name / branch name Ice Cream Sandwhich.

Ice Cream Sandwhich will reintegrate the two branches of Android we have right now: 3.* Honeycomb, which was newly developed for the special needs of tablet devices (bigger screen ;) ) and Android 2.3.* Gingerbread, which feels like it´s been around forever (actually, this is almost true: It was announced in December 2010). 

New software – this implies new flagship devices. One of these will be the device rumored to be called the Nexus Prime (other rumors say the Samsung made devices will be named “Samsung Galaxy Nexus” (what a stupid name!)).

Specs are rumored everywhere in the internets and honestly, I believe that they are accurate, but don´t feel like spreading them before the actual announcement at Samsungs Unpacked event on monday (October 11th, 2011).

Here however, is something more interesting a video of ICS running on the smartphone believed to be the next android flagship smartphone.

 That´s what I wrote all this for. More information and opinion after the official announcement!

VIA: thisismynext.com

HP Touchpad – and webOS 3.0

The HP TouchPad is available in the US and a whole lot of reviews are out. Of course I don´t have a review unit, which is sad but normal for a small blog – so I can´t share any first hand impressions, just comment on what others have shared on the TouchPad.

Hardware:

The TouchPad is thicker than the iPad2 or modern Android Honeycomb Tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 – however, the main complaint is materials: The TouchPads back is made of glossy plastic, which, as you may know, feels rather cheap. Besides that, it isn´t the lightest tablet out there.

Software:

Everybody likes webOS usability. webOS 3.0 on the Touchpad starts with around 300 apps, of which 50 are great apps – this is more than the Android Honeycomb tablets started with, which is good, too. There are some complaints though, too: The Skype integration is not perfect yet, so is the overall speed of the device, hickups are said to occur from time to time (despite the fast Qualcomm chip inside). HP stated, that these issues are supposed to be fixed in about a month with an OTA update – there is only one first impression though, and this is as its always been with (HP) webOS: Great ideas, not polished yet (I was going to write: “Great ideas poorly carried out” but that sounded to harsh without a deep dive into the TouchPad (e.g. a long hands on (a few hours or days)).

Still, comments and ratings on the HP TouchPad have been overly positive. It´s said to feel very “natural” in use, that some parts of its usability are like “that tune you can´t get out of your head”, e.g. the swipe up to close an application. In fact, i have read more than once that while not yet on the iPad 2´s level, the TouchPad is already a serious contender to the Honeycomb tablets, which are believed to have an overly complecated user experience.
Whether this is enough to have TouchPad sales at the level where HP expects them, remains to be seen.

(Stay tuned for another article on HP webOS in general later today.)

My problem with todays tablets (Another take on the DA)

It´s not that there is one tablet announcement a day, but there have been many since the last quarter of last year and Android 3.0 being almost ready. I like these tablets (though they are not yet that great that I would recommend a normal, average user that wants to buy an iPad 2 to get an Android tablet instead as software isn´t good enough yet), but they all, including Apple´s solution lack one feature that I really want with a tablet computer: Really great handwriting support, like the old Apple Newton had it about 13 years ago. ASUS (Eee Pad MeMO) and HTC (HTC Flyer) tried to adress this issue in order to differenciate their products, but it´s simply unfortunate, as they just add special frameworks to stock Android to give you some handwriting – there is no way that you will be able to use handwriting with all applications in the same, simple, streamlined way.

Apple Newton 2100 – CC: Paul Jerry

Some of you may ask why I insist that much on handwriting, why I believe it is a crucial feature. First of all, text input on computers is something we are all used to, but it´s not a natural way of writing text. There are many studies that say that handwriting (especially cursive handwriting) is very important for the development of our brains, for remembering things, for being creative. Writing on a stock keyboard is different, it looks different, your fingers move in a very different way – your arms barely move at all while touchtyping.

Back in the 80s and 90s there were dreams about the “paperless office”, which was supposed to come along with the use of computers. This didn´t happen, computerization along with the development of ever better, ever more affordable printing solutions led to the opposite: The use / waste of paper increased, which comes as no surprise if you think of display solutions; the old, huge screens at 60Hz or slightly more with bad resolutions made your eyes tired quite fast, todays LCD displays still do so because of their brightness. But new technologies, be it PixelQis 3Qi screen or Qualcomms Mirasol technology do not only lead to better battery life: they are more eye friendly, while being not as slow as ePaper while refreshing content. These new technologies alongside with great touchscreen technology and really powerful ARM SoCs which allow long battery life with thin and light fanless computing systems can make computing much more intuitive, can make computer text input alot like classic handwriting and thus reduce the waste (or use) of paper a lot, making our workspaces less cluttered.

I know that there are many people out there that are fine with a tablet that is just a device to waste time, to browse websites or to watch videos – but think about it. Tablet computing is a fantastic opportunity for a new computing workflow, for a great, instant on, intuitive and collaborative way of getting your work done.

NoteSlate – Copyright: NoteSlate.com

Instead, many opportunities are being wasted, interfaces are still very much PC like and thus counterintuitive. In fact, I would like to have a system that doesn´t have applications but has activities instead. You may call that “bullshit” as its mostly a rebranding, I personally believe that this changes, if it makes some developers to rethink their approach, is worth it, as it is a change of paradigm.

In fact, the tablet that is the closest to what I am looking for is just a mock up by a czech designer, Martin Hasek, the 13” 1bit color NoteSlate – it´s relatively low tech, but a paper replacement tablet, something to draw on, nothing for multimedia (or even 3D) bullshit. Whether it´ll be THE thing, remains to be seen though – OCR / HWR is not that simple, as the history of the Apple Newton shows, too – and while even low end ARM SoCs (ARM9, ARM11) are quite faster than the Newton 2100 ARM6 CPU, software has become more and more demanding since, or bloated, if you want to name it in another way.  And then there is another thing that remains to be seen: Whether the actual NoteSlate will run Linux – if it doesn´t it´s not for LINMOB ;-)

Comment: Delayed AOSP release of Honeycomb

Recently, Google´s Andy Rubin stated that it would take some more time until they would release the Sourcecode of Android Honeycomb. This is not a new phenomenon, it often took Google longer to release the Sourcecode than the SDK or the first device running the same Android release. This time it´s going to take a lot longer – but, honestly, this is not surprising.

First of all, one hears of random application / service crashes in Honeycomb, secondly screenshots of Honeycomb on smartphones have indicated, that this Honeycomb platform could have used some more time in the lab – I believe that the early (in terms of code finalisation) release of Honeycomb was actually a business decision: Get people exited with Honeycomb tablets before the iPad 2 is out must have been the idea, and actually, this seems to have worked out – while many tech journalists say, that the iPad 2 is the best tablet on the market right now, most of them mention that Honeycomb nontheless is a strong platform that just needs the right hardware (Samsungs new Galaxy Tabs are going to be great, the Motorola XOOM is often refered to as early, thick and heavy) to be a really strong competitor.

Releasing a software really fast always means that there are some ugly hacks in it, and it makes perfect sense that Google doesn´t want to release  source codes that contain ugly hacks and doesn´t run well on every hardware platform – and they can do so due to choosing the Apache license, which isn´t as demanding in that sense as the GPL (especially GPL v3) is – they may be sued to release the GPL licensed software parts though (kernel and a few libraries).

Still, openess is one of the mayor selling points of Android, and so I am very positive, that Google will release the source code of Honeycomb as soon as they have fixed the issues in it – they could have made Android closed  source in the first place if they had wanted too – you don´t need a Linux kernel to run Dalvik – a story the Blackberry Playbook tells us (most likely, they might actually run a virtualized Linux kernel – the TI OMAP 4 SoC is definitely powerful enough to do so).

On the other hand, as someone watching community projects and being in contact with open source people for some time, this is the time to mention again that Android isn´t as open as other projects – new releases are always created behind closed doors, while some bits others changed on the previous release are pulled in, this is not open development. It´s just a opening to allow modifications and additions, but then, again, this does it for many and is in a way more than what you are able to do on other platforms that rely on more GPLed code (think of webOS and the no ogg, no flac media player) – the platforms efforts that are entirely open source are rarely supported / pushed forward by companies and thus remain enthusiast free time projects (G(PE)² is an example here, as it was backed by a unnamed company for a rather short time).

Android is just the most open / free mayor platform out there, but that´s something, isn´t it?

iPad 2 later today

As you might already know, Apple will announce and present the iPad 2 today at 7 p.m. Paris time. This morning iPad 2 already accidentely appeared on Amazon.de as netbooknews.de reports. The leaked specs (if they aren´t just placeholders and Amazon doesn´t know more than everybody else) suggest an 1.2GHz CPU (no word about dualcore here, so it might just be a faster Apple A4), WiFi, 3G, Canera, Thunderbolt I/O (and thus Display Port if I am not completely wrong) and Bluetooth – and an aggressive pricing that is – if it´s real – almost incredible for the 16GB model: 499€, just as much as the current iPad 16GB WiFi only costs.

Image by netbooknews.de / stadt-bremerhaven.de

If this turns out to be true – we will all know more later today – Apple´s chances to fight the upcoming Android tablets (which will not be able to compete in terms of number of Apps and Content deals in the beginning, but will be higher priced) might not be all that bad – on the other hand: Nobody expected Apple to give up the fight.

MWC2011: Day 1

Platforms (software):

  • Intel shows off MeeGo tablet UX on ExoPC/WeTab platform (Atom N450): mobile bloggers not too impressed: Lot of potentital, but not much progress on UX side since Computex (probably because Intel and Nokia focused on the “below UX” parts of the platform first): Impressions on Engadget, Carrypad, Laptopmag, @chippy´s audioboo 1 2
  • Intel furthermore stated that there will be a Medfield phone this year – the device they showed ran Android, though: Carrypad
  • @charbax (ARMDevices.net) was told by an unnamed source that Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) will also run on cheap tablets (ARM11). It remains to be confirmed, but due to Androids open nature this sounds highly likely and it is nice to see that those initial “Honeycomb will only work on Dual Core ARMv7” bullshit rumors are what they are: Bullshit. Furthermore, this makes cheaper tablets like the SmartQ N7 a lot more interesting.
  • Alien Dalvik by Myriad apparently running quite nicely on MeeGo: @chippy´s audioboo Isn´t going to be available for end users (due to it´s rather low level nature and monetization, I assume), but I am sure that once it shipped on a device or leaks out people will try to integrate it into webOS or LiMo, too.
  • LiMo foundation announces the 4th release of its platform, featuring multi touch and 3D effects, while going on to build on GNOME software – first devices to be out in summer: press release 
  • Windows Phone 7 2011 future: CDMA, Copy and paste in March (engadget); IE9, multi-tasking, twitter integration later this year (engadget) – multi-tasking UI looks surprisingly like webOS´s cards, well, Microsoft have always been good at reimplementing the ideas others had before, haven´t they? Adding the recent Nokia partnership to this, counting out this platform would be overhasty.

(Noteworthy) Devices:

  • LG Optimus 3D, OMAP 4, 4,3” glasses free 3D smartphone: ARMdevices.net
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, nVidia Tegra 2 based Google experience tablet: ARMdevices.net
  • Samsung Galaxy S2, 4.3” WVGA, 1GHz dual-core Samsung Exynos Cortex A9 with ARM Mali 400 graphics: ARMdevices.net

More tomorrow.