Saturday, January 08, 2011

Tablet Space To Grow Further With New Windows And Honeycomb?

“Increasingly, people want a Windows experience on all of their devices,” said Microsoft’s CEO, Steve Steve Ballmer, in his annual pre-CES keynote address. The company is answering the plea of all the people and coming out with operating system that will support ARM-based chips. “Windows support for SoCs is an important step for Microsoft and for the industry,” said Ballmer.

The next iteration of Windows, will be able to run on both AMD-based SoCs. The AMD-based chips will be coming from Microsoft partners, Nvidia Corp., Qualcomm Inc. and Texas Instruments Inc. Windows currently runs on the x86 architecture products from Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc.

Microsoft showed demonstrations of the still-in-development form of Windows at CES. President of Windows Live Division, Steven Sinofsky said, “With today’s announcement, we’re showing the flexibility and resiliency of Windows through the power of software and a commitment to world-class engineering.” The OS would be running on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon, Nvidia’s Tegra and TI’s OMAP.
The new OS will not be a part of the Windows Mobile 7 OS which runs on AMD-based devices, but it will use the same user interface as Windows 7. No other features of this OS or its availability data have been revealed by Microsoft.

The news of the next iteration of Windows running on SoCs first took shape in July 2010 when Microsoft took an architectural license from ARM. This was confirmed further, in December 2010, when Wall Street Journal reported that Microsoft would reveal the new OS at CES.

Microsoft has stayed away from ARM-based devices for years. This has kept it away from the tablet marketspace, a domain which Google has captured entirely with it’s Android OS. The growth of Google in this field must have persuaded Microsoft to take this major step.

Google’s growth in the tablet market has been phenomenal. Soon after the launch of Apple’s iPad in January 2010, came the news that the market would be filled with tablet devices. What analysts failed to describe back then was, on what would these devices be running. The answer came soon in the form of Android. We have already seen many tablets running on Android 2.2, Froyo.

Google realised the need of a dedicated OS for tablets and started working developing Honeycomb. The Android OS for tablets was speculated to be Android 3.0 as it would feature a whole set of new codes, not just some tweaks to the OS which is built for smartphones. But, in December 2010, a report from AndroidandMe sparked rumours that Honeycomb is Android 2.4 and not Android 3.0. But, at CES 2011, the rumour died as Asus, in the press release to introduce its Android devices, referred to Honeycomb as Android 3.0.

The press release reads:

The newly unveiled family of ASUS tablets* arrives with a splash by offering four unique and innovative products. The Eee Pad MeMO has a 7-inch capacitive screen powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon mobile processor and will ship with Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) featuring HD playback capabilities, mobile gaming, an exciting Web experience and is accompanied by a stylus pen for taking handwritten notes.
Soon after this, Google officially announced the release of Android 3.0, Honeycomb on the Google Mobile blog. Google’s VP of engineering, Andy Rubin, wrote, “Today at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas, we previewed Android 3.0, Honeycomb.” Honeycomb is “designed from the ground up for devices with larger screen sizes, particularly tablets.”

The Honeycomb has a ton of features that make it a must-have for tablet users. The OS has been designed and developed to power devices with larger screen sizes, “particularly tablets,” unlike it’s previous versions which were meant for tablets. Google has given user experience and have “developed a brand new, truly virtual and holographic user interface.” Android’s existing features of multi-tasking, notifications and the Android Market client, all have been overhauled.

The home screen has been given a new 3D interface and the widgets are richer and more interactive. Honeycomb also comes with Google Maps 5 with 3D interactions and offline reliability. It also features over 3 million Google eBooks and has its own Gmail and YouTube interfaces. It also has Google Talk enabled, allowing video and voice chat.

Mobile Web browsing is amongst the most prominent uses of the tablet. Google has an advantage here over the others as it has its own browser. The Web browser of Honeycomb comes with some nifty features. It has tabbed browsing and auto-fill option. Users can also sync their Chrome bookmarks on the Honeycomb browser. It also has the Incognito mode for private browsing.

You can check out Rubin’s post or the promotional video of Honeycomb for more info:

Will Microsoft’s New Windows be able to overtake Google’s Android in the tablet space? It seems unlikely, the reason behind Android’s growth is its openness, something which the proprietary Microsoft lacks. But, one thing is for sure, the tablet marketspace is sure to light up further with Windows 8 and Honeycomb.

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