Tag Archive | "ui"

ExoPC Investigating Product-X Tablet Design. My Feedback.

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I’m sitting in front of an ExoPC which is now referred to internally as the Exo-1 because they’re looking for new hardware for the next generation ExoPC device – Product X

There’s a very open an interesting post up on the ExoPC discussion board about new hardware they’re testing. It’s clearly an Oaktrail-based device but they’re not giving the ID away at this stage because there’s some negative points being aired. It’s a thread that has already prompted me to post something on our own forum about Oaktrail and I’d like to bring it up here. Maybe it’s useful for Exo PC. Maybe it’s useful for readers.

exopc1

Obviously if you’re going to bring similar looking / acting hardware to the market as a new model, it needs to be better than the existing product, right? If there’s one thing that’s worse than the previous model, it confuses customers and causes rumblings in the owner community. While the battery life on the Oaktrail-based devices might be better, the performance isn’t. An Atom N450-based Win 7 product will outperform a 1.5Ghz Oaktrail equivalent in most, if not all, departments. Even if you bump the CPU up to the new Z615 at 1.9Ghz, the GPU isn’t going to be better than the previous generation. It’s a problem for anyone that’s got a 10 inch Atom N-series in the market. Where do you go?

The problem is, the N450-based tablets aren’t exactly zippy and are not the best at battery life. Fan noise, weight and size are an issue so some progress needs to be made there. Oaktrail is not the solution here and until Cedar Trail or more Ultrabook-like designs (E.g. EP121) come along, there’s no solution.

The way to make for ExoPC to make a second device is to move to a new form factor  and / or a new operating system. Changing the OS is a problem for ExoPC because most of their business is wrapped up in their overlay software development, for Windows. Personally, I don’t use it but if it’s their bread and butter, it’s important.

So why not keep the user interface and apply it to a 7 inch model? The 7 inch Windows tablet market is small, yes, but so is the 11.6 inch Windows tablet market. In fact, there’s less competition in the 7 inch space, more importance placed on efficiency and at 7 inch, Windows needs an overlay more than it does at 11.6 inch Using Oaktrail allows you to make a different hardware product for a new market and it also brings a bridge to other operating systems that could boost hardware sales. Meego is an interesting option for an Oaktrail tablet and if your skill is in user interfaces, you could turn something round quickly and make quite a differentiator in the Meego market. Acer turned a lot of heads when they presented their 10 inch Morestown-based Iconia M500 tablet that’s due to be available in Q4.  Don’t forget the Windows 8 mobility path either. If you’re working with Oaktrail now, making the move to Clovertrail and Windows 8 should be easier later. It will make an even better 7 inch tablet platform and gives the company a product to focus on should Windows 8 kill the ExoPC software overlay business.

ExoPC should do two things. 1) Look at the 7 inch slate space where user interfaces become even more important. It’s currently a fairly empty space if you consider pro-mobile users and although niche, could allow ExoPC to become the king of it. Better to be king of a small niche than a bit-player in a large one. Asses Oaktrail devices and think about Meego, Windows 8 and even Android which we’ve already seen running on Intel. Look to break out a new product with a new customer base. 2) Take time to find a better product platform for the existing (10-12 inch) ExoPC market. Mid 2012 perhaps? Sandy Bridge-based tablet designs could be cheaper then as Ultrabook-style manufacturing matures.

Of course there’s a risk. You’ll need to investigate why the 7 inch space is empty for a start but the Galaxy Tab 7 sales (millions of them) say something about the form factor. There’s also the risk that someone else has seen this opportunity too. The Viliv X70 Slate design still exists (although the company appears to be going under) and we shouldn’t forget the ECS 7 inch slate design either. WeTab appear to be going through the same process so stay tuned here, ExoPC, for the latest news! (And good luck, of course.)

Here’s the discussion thread at the ExoPC discussion forum.

Intel launches MeeGo Tablet User Experience – Hands-On and Info.

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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.

panels_blackbg Chat2

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.

Motorola Xoom Hands-On and UI Demo

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In a previous post I highlighted my surprise at how different Honeycomb really is. The UI is totally different, the apps totally re-worked and obviously the core has been optimised for fast touch response. Check it out in this video from MWC 2011

Motorola Xoom (4)

MeeGo Handset User Experience Progresses

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IMG_5944We were lucky enough to get a few days with the Aava / Intel / Meego phone earlier this year and our tests with the handset UX showed that there was a lot of work to do. In a presentation at the MeeGo onference in Dublin today, we saw progress, a good working demo and future planning but still, there’s so much missing. Granted, these user-experiences are just baseline builds to show how the core features can be used but still, it seems to us there are some hooks that need to be added.

With no active icons support (showing number of unread emails for example) and a single homescreen with no widget support it means that product developers will have a lot of work to do to implement these features. On the other hand, the notifications subsystem looks good with support for multiple notification types triggering multiple different notification methods including notification lights, haptics and of course, dialog boxes. We didn’t see any dialog box handling mechanism though so we’re hoping this will be well controlled when it gets implemented.

The demo was done on a Moorestown based Aava Smartphone platform.

Linpus Lite, MeeGo and Slate Edition (video)

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IMG_3506

Linpus are working on Linpus Lite Slate Edition and, in-line with Intel Moorestown and Oak Trail-based products, is planned for tablet PC’s of 2011. We took some time to speak to Linpus about Lite and MeeGo too.

Linpus Lite appears on Acer Netbooks and is expected to be the distribution that will appear on Acers’s MeeGo netbooks.

The video was shot just before the Intel keynote in which the MeeGo tablet UI was announced.

WePad Live Demos Analysed. Ubuntu Spotted.

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wepad_homescreen Sascha Pallenberg, MeetMobility podcaster and editor-in-chief at Netbooknews attended a recent WePad live demo and has posted his videos. They’re in German but I’ve been through them and pulled out some of the important points here. (Luckily I also speak German.)

The most important take-away is that this is not an Android-based Linux build as first thought. It’s a heavily modified Ubuntu distro with overlay software. The Android aspect is likely to coming from Canonicals Dalvik runtime which will provide some Android application support but don’t expect the Google Marketplace or Google Apps such as Maps, Mail or Sky to be running on this.

Below you can find the notes I made as I went through the video. Some of the notes are my own thoughts and conclusions and not information taken direct from the video.

More information on the WePad is available in our WePad information page.

Read the full story

MeeGo at IDF. Netbook and Handheld Eye Candy, Chrome, Fennec and Lots of Developer Details.

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MeeGo gets an outing in China this week as Intel takes its developer-focused conference, IDF, to Beijing. As I write this, Intel’s Lynn Wang, Strategic Relationship Manager and Rao Yeleswarapu, a Product Marketing Manager have just finished their talk on MeeGo Technology and Benefits. Danny Zhang, Senior Engineering Manager and Horace Li a Software Engineer with Intel have also given a technical overview talk.

Update: MeeGo 1.0 for Netbooks is now available.

As always, Intel publish the slides from the talks and they contain some great new information. I’ve picked out a few interesting slides from the first presentation which also include the first images of MeeGo’s handheld reference UI for smartphones.

Netbooks.

First off, lets look at the Netbook feature list for MeeGo (we assume 1.0) which confirms a previous tidbit that I picked up from DevMob (that apparently, shouldn’t have leaked.) Mozilla’s browser will be replaced by Chrome (or Chromium, the open source browser.) Quite how significant that if for Mozilla I don’t know but it’s something that should generate quite some discussion.  [Sidenote: There’s been a lot of Google/Intel/Android/Chrome rumors lately. Relationships are definitely good and don’t forget, Intel is part of the OHA. Stay very closely tuned to the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit which starts tomorrow and runs for three days. Intel, Nokia and Google are all there. I wish I was too but i’ll be glued to the live stream as much as I can.]

MeeGo-Netbook

You’ll also see that the social messaging app is to be redesigned (the application on Moblin 2.1 very very thin indeed) along with the camera application,email and calendar and date/time app. Best of all, the media application will get an overhaul. Again, the media app on Moblin was extremely basic. Remember that what drops out of MeeGo is not necessarily what you’ll see on netbooks. These code drops (starting with 1.0 in May) are for 3rd partys to take and build on so what you see in V1.0 is not what you’ll see in a final, retail build delivered on a netbook.

In other news, a number of companies have just re-affirmed their support for MeeGo as it transistions out of the Maemo brand. Note that Canonical isn’t in the list. That’s what happens when you move to an RPM-based distro I guess!

Note that the promised touch and gesture support is in there although I don’t see sensor support yet. That’s important for GPS. (It is, however, mentioned in other parts of the presentation.) Also missing is any mention of an application store. Intel’s AppUp is available for Moblin, OVI for Maemo so I wonder if this is simply left out of the core and left up to the OEMs. Remember that happened with Skype on Maemo 5, hopefully that particular relationship, optimisation and integration will spread over to netbooks.

As for netbook eye candy, here’s a snip from the presentation. I don’t know if it’s the proposed 1.0 UI though.

meego-netbook-ui

The center column has been dropped from the home zone and filled out with social network tiles. Having used these on Moblin, all I can say is – inefficient. 13 status updates on a 1024×600 screen is not an efficient way to use the device for anyone remotely familiar with making friends on the Internet. Let’s hope that the MeeGo UI teams offer an ‘advanced’ front end. Again, it’s not clear if this actually is the UI for release 1.0 though. Update: It is!

Handhelds.

It’s not clear whether this is Intel’s proposal here of if this is 100% agreed between Nokia and Intel but this is what Intel have to say about handhelds using Intel architecture.

meego-handheld-features

As you can see, Fennec, the mobile browser from Mozilla, has been chosen to present the Web. You’ll also get Flash support. Contacts and dialer functions will be integrated (as you’d expect) and there will be VOIP (it will be interesting to see if carriers want that ripped out) and instant messaging. I’m happy to see that the social networking ‘integrated experience’ is mentioned because this is an excellent core feature on the Maemo 5-based Nokia N900. Data sync is also provided along with an LBS app indicating that at least GPS sensors will be supported.

And now for the smartphone eye candy, including cute doggie!

Meego-handheld-ui-3 Meego-handheld-ui-1
Portrait mode support. N900/Maemo fans rejoice! Note the interesting activity stream in the first picture.
One would assume that emails, tweets and other network events can be included in that stream.

Meego-handheld-ui-2

This is typical understated European styling and I bet Nokia were heavily involved here. Personally I love the design but remember, once again this is just a reference design. It’s the sort of UI you’ll see if you take the 1.0 build and drop it on an Aava Moorestown reference design (which I’m trying hard to get hold of) and possibly, the N900. As I said before, I’m not sure if this is Intel’s proposal for the handheld UI or an agreed, across-the-board Nokia/Intel final reference design. We’ll see in May when V1.0 drops.

Timescales.

I mentioned the roadmap on my MeeGo journal a few weeks ago and Intel have re-affirmed those in a nice easy-to-understand slide.

meego-timescalesThe key date for me is the v1.1 release in the latter part of October. That’s when the MeeGo Summit is likely to occur and it’s right in the Q4 timeframe for product availability. LG GW990, Nokia Nxxx and who knows what else we’ll see. Interestingly, the U.S-based Intel Developer Forum will be in the middle of Sept so it will be interesting to see if Intel and partners have products to announce. October will be a very exciting time and wherever that MeeGo Summit is, i’ll be there!

MeeGo Developers.

You’ve got your very own PDF to browse through too but this slide just smacks me in the face…

meego-stores

‘Cross  App Store Developement’ is something special for devs to consider. The diagram doesn’t actually do the feature justice because it omits to mention the Intel app-store framework that can be used to make branded 3rd-party app stores. One API, many stores, many devices. In a separate presentation on the AppUp store I saw this… line. “World’s largest potential TAM (for a single API) “ When you think of the opportunity there, the mind boggles. Smartphones, Netbooks and the many many devices in-between including home, car and TV.

meego-architechture For more (very) detailed information on the MeeGo stack and the development toolkit, download and read SFTS010 from the content catalogue. (I can’t directly link as it’s a one-time URL used for statistics and tracking.)

all the above slides were taken from the publicly available PDF file SFTS009 available through in content catalogue.

Stay tuned to that catalogue over the next 48 hours as more PDF’s feed in. Particularly interesting could be the Moorestown presentation.

Fingertips or Stylus Tips

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One of the big differences between the Compal MID and the BenQ S6 devices is what they expect the primary input mechanism to be. While both of them have touch screens, the design of the user interface shows one clear difference.

The Compal is designed to be used by a stylus, while the S6 is geared for the much larger (and less accurate) finger.

For a long time PDA’s were all stylus controlled in the US (think of the Palm and early Windows CE machines), and a lot of this was down to technology. Screens were in their infancy and had a low pixel per inch density. Your pointer could wander round a bit and still hit the target, even when standing. In Europe it was all about the clamshell with a full keyboard you used on a desk or cradled in your hands. It took until the Psion Series 5 came out that the stylus as part of an interface took off.

In all those cases it was the ergonomics of where a device was going to be used that determined how useful the stylus would be – the small Palm and Windows devices could be comfortably held in one hand while the stylus was used, while Psion arguably produced machines to be used at tables.

So what of the MID devices? Both the S6 and the Compal are geared towards being used in the hand – the Compal’s screen doesn’t tilt and while the S6 has a small kickstand the location of the scroll strip and buttons under the thumbs gives away the design brief. Neither device is suitable to be used one handed mainly due to their size. So two handed it it, and in my mind that means you’ll be standing (more than likely walking), when using the device.

And a stylus in that situation is pretty useless. The Compal’s interface has buttons and target areas so small that even a little bounce in your step and you’ll be missing where you were hoping to click. Having an on screen mouse/cursor is also very strange, and I think shows the roots of the Compal UI is in a desk based system, with easy access to a stable mouse.

It’s certainly not as well suited to working on the move as the S6 is. With large round buttons, which just happen to be about the size of the pad of your finger, it’s clear that the designers of the S6’s UI have thought about where the S6 will be used and decided that a lot of the time people will be “walking and mid-ing inch and ensured that any frustration will not be because of the UI.

(Although web forms are still tiny, and BenQ did see fit to include a stylus for situations like that)

Having used both devices, the S6 is certainly the more comfortable UI when out and about. Although the Compal feels much more like a full blown computer that has more potential the rough edges will take away a lot of those potential advantages in the eyes of the consumer.

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