Remember that cool-looking tablet user experience we saw back at Computex?, well it’s back and it’s official. It’s now the official Tablet User Experience for MeeGo.
We’ve had a close look at the demonstration, seen below on an ExpoPC, and talked to Intel’s Michael Richmod, the marketing manager for this product. Developers attending the Applab this week at MWC are going to get a pre-configured Meego tablet to walk away with and the Meego image, built with the latest 1.2 beta, will be available for download later this week.
Intel have completely re-written the ‘panels’ user interface in QML (Qt Meta-Object Language) that now enables Intels customers (remember this isn’t an end-user product) to customise the UI. Intel tell us that this enables them make customisations and, by having a baseline to work from, to shorten their time-to-market figures. Note that QML also enables 3D acceleration in the UI.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a deck of panels in a tablet UI (cough*webos*cough) but remember, these panels are really apps in their own right rather than representations of running software. Each panel flips to offer customisations, a nice feature. It would be great to see each running represented as a panel and we hope, really hope, that Intel and the MeeGo teams have made it easy for developers to create new panels. UI customisations will be difficult without a range of panels to choose from.
There’s no filesytem exposed in the UI but the UI does retain certain desktop features like ‘right-click’ which is implemented as tap-and-hold through the MeeGo applications suite. Also missing is a centralised notifications system although there could be a panel for that!
The MeeGo build and user experience is currently only for the ExoPC hardware (also seen used in other manufacturers devices, WeTab included) but the Lenovo S10-3T will be supported soon. Intel wouldn’t comment on Moorestown and Oaktrail target products possibly because there aren’t any that are officially available yet! We hope that problem sorts itself this week because the MeeGo stack badly needs some sexy hardware. Take what HP did this week as an example of an OS, dev tools and products being presented as one bundle.
As for apps, Intel have chosen the Chromium open-source browser rather than the Firefox Mobile option that has been talked about for the handheld user experience. Although Intel partners can choose other options, we don’t expect that to change (although an official Chrome build would be nice.) You’ll also find an email client, calendar, video player with open source codecs, audio player, social network subsystem, sharing subsystem, image viewer, instant messenger and the configurations pane. We didn’t spot AppUp or any other way to attach to Linux repositories although do remember that this is Linux to the LSB standard.
Intel are welcoming feedback on this build and do plan to turn around iterations based on that feedback. The Intel Atom Developer Program is the forum for that.
Al in all we think a lot of people are going to be excited about this. The response we had on the original panel demos at Computex was overwhelmingly positive. We’ve got reservations about the notifications system, and would have liked to see multitouch support, easier app switching, some more advanced demo hardware, Appup, third party applications [breath…] and we have ongoing questions about QML, the Nokia owned product that slipped from it’s mainstream positioning last week. Is it enough to beat WebOS and Honeycomb? With this full-fat Linux stack leaning a bit more to traditional computing architecture and with Oaktrail and Moorestown products coming soon, there’s definitely an opportunity here for a fully productive operating system with a quality touchscreen-UI. We’re trying to think of another 7-10 inch tablet-focused operating system that offers a full desktop browser and the opportunity to span consumption and productivity scenarios. We can’t!
Stay tuned as we get briefed on products and plans today.