As a developer and iPhone fan, nothing pleases me more to say that Android has caught up with the iPhone. Android hardware has been great for a while, the Motorola Droid and Nexus One being the first in a wave of great devices, but the software hadn’t been right. Android took its sweet time to develop but finally has all the great features iPhone users have enjoyed since the iPhone 3G and more (wi-fi hotspots for example).
Thing is, the iPhone, and iOS, has moved on.
Since the launch of the iPad, every Android-lover has been waiting for a tablet with Android on it. They want the brilliance and openness of Android on a more useful (day-to-day) form factor. To those people, I say wait, it’s not ready yet. In order to put iOS on a tablet, Apple had to fork the code base into two versions, iPhone 3.1 (later 4.0) and iPad 3.2. To date (though that may change at the September 1st event), these two branches have not converged, nearly 9 months later. Apple did this for a very good reason: the native controllers and views are not suitable for tablet devices and new paradigms needed to be created.
The SplitView Navigation controller, necessary for much of the good UI interaction on the iPad. Courtesy of Apple
So, why isn’t this a good idea. For one, the Android developer API says it doesn’t support screens larger than 4.3″. That should be a pretty good first clue. Take the iPad HCI guidelines for a second clue. It states that full screen transitions are bad, interfaces have to be tailored to the device, and you have to do more than just blow up the interface to twice the size. Take a look at how iPhone apps look on the iPad for that one.
iPhone app on an iPad, now think of an Android app, just blown up.
Truthfully, the current Android SDK just can’t cope with the demands of a tablet UI. Little things like smooth transitions when rotating to big things like having universal apps which cover multiple screen sizes well. Android has support for multiple screen sizes, but it relies on relative positioning for this and is an inelegant solution compared with Apple’s interface builder.
A bigger screen will accentuate the differences in the quality of iOS and Android apps. If you have a mediocre Android app and put it on a tablet, it’s going to look poor, but put a mediocre iPhone app on the iPad, and it’s at least usable. Take a look at this video of a $50 Android tablet from India Do you want a UI like that on your tablet? Didn’t think so.
So, my advice, is wait. Wait until Android 3.0 (Gingerbread) comes out in Q4 this year, then wait until 2011 for some good hardware. 3.0 has set precedent by disallowing vendor customisation, forcing a much-more Apple-esque standard set of controllers which will suit more purposes. Acer and Motorola have already announced that they’re delaying the launch of their Android tablets until 3.0 is available.
Still, when that time comes around, the second generation iPad will be out, and then Android will be playing catch up again.
Update: Just seen the ViewSonic ViewPad 7, a 7″ Froyo tablet. Take a look at the video in the link: it’s full-screen all the way, sluggish and, I quote “a plastic rebadge me-too Android tablet”. When you’re watching the video, think about how that’s going to work on a tablet the size of an iPad (or the Archos 101 for that matter). It’s not going to be pretty.
Adobe weren’t too pleased about this, yet launched the product anyway, hoping Apple would change its mind. Since then, Steve Jobs wrote an open letter, explaining their position, claiming six points:
Flash is closed source (like the iPhone), HTML5 is open
Flash is the number one cause of crashes on OS X
Flash is not designed for touch
Need to maintain app quality on the store
HTML5 can do everything that Flash can
Battery life suffers
In the letter, there’s a bit of pretending that the iPhone is the only phone in the market, but otherwise, in my opinion, it’s accurate.
Adobe’s response was somewhat deluded; laughing that Flash wasn’t an open platform (someone should break the news to Adobe’s CEO) and saying that Flash 10.1 will ship to mobile devices later this year, focusing on multi-platform development. Adobe’s CEO also points that Apple’s developer restrictions are cumbersome and have nothing to do with the technology.
Personally, Adobe needs a re-think of their strategy. Flash enjoyed enormous success as a video player (thanks to YouTube) but they should have seen HTML5 coming. It’s been on the cards since the first iPhone in 2007 and Adobe has done through an entire release cycle (CS5) with little though for HTML5. If they’re smart, which they are, Flash CS6 will be able to create SVG graphics and Canvas apps using web databases and fonts, having Flash fallbacks for non-HTML5 capable browsers. Dreamweaver will have HTML5 structure tags available and Illustrator and Photoshop will do SVG too.
If Adobe don’t keep up with developers, the devs will simply find other tools to use. Adobe can avoid this, and it’s in their hands.
If you’re like me, with an eye on Google Reader even over the holidays, you won’t have failed to notice the upcoming Apple event at which the Apple touch-screen tablet, likely to be called iSlate or the Slate, will be announced. Such is the predictability of this event, given the number of rumours that have appeared, it is now completely without interest. Even the stock market takes more notice of Apple’s rumours, rather than their product announcements.
So, I’ve gazed into my crystal ball, looked at the last few years of product announcements, and have come up with the major headlines for the next two years of Apple products.
Apple product roadmap 2010-2011
The major events, spread throughout the year, all have very specific themes. January is iLife/iWork and major product announcements, March is a developers preview of new software, WWDC in June is a major product launch, September is a big iPod event and November is pre-Christmas product refresh time. For those reasons, the above list shouldn’t be too surprising to most people in the know.
I’m predicting next year will be the Slate’s year, rather than the iPhone. It’s too soon for a form factor change and it’s got all the features it could have at this time, so 2011 will be the next iPhone update. The Slate will fit into the iPhone’s product release schedule, now being Apple’s flagship product, with yearly updates for the first few years depending on its success. The Macbook Pro line will be somewhat ignored until the end of 2010 when it gains Intel quad cores like its iMac brother. At this time, I believe the first details on OS X 10.7 will come out, probably with a new UI paradigm, potentially merging with the Slate’s modified iPhone OS.
2011 will see “Westmere” Mac Pros, though it’s possible that this will be quite a quiet event, given i7 iMacs are more cost-effective than Mac Pros. An updated iPhone/Slate OS will follow in March, and a second generation Slate in June (which will be the one I’ll get). Some controversy to follow then with a new iPod on the horizon; my thinking goes that the whole product line there needs a kick to keep people buying them, and by this time, technology will be good enough for something amazing. Finally, after that will come Intel i9 iMacs, with those processors being available for Macbook Pros by the end of 2012.
Honestly, you could probably try and predict further ahead than that with some accuracy, but forecasts become quite hazy more than two years down the line. Still, if there’s any betting shops out there willing to give me good accumulator odds on this, drop me a line!
Update 1 (March 2010): I got the Slate/iPad right, though not the release date. Still, by the time it reaches the rest of the world it probably will be July. Not so sure about a March “Town Hall” event, though I’d still expect iPhone OS 4.0 with the iPhone update this year. Also, people keep going on about potential Core i3/i5 updates for the Macbook Pro line. This hasn’t happened yet and I still think I’m in with a shout of November. The problem will be power consumption and heat, which may need a bit more work to keep the 8 hour battery life promise that Apple have made.
Update 2 (April 2010): it seems I got the iPhone 4.0 OS announcement right at the town hall event, just seems that it was in April rather than March. Unfortunately, the i5/i7 Macbook Pro announcement was in April, not November as I said. Better luck next time for that one
Have you tried registering for the iPhone developer programme? I have. Today I registered my company for the scheme and was told there would be a verification process and it would take about a week. I called Apple to see what this process was. Your company goes through the following:
Your e-mail address is checked against the company name
Your e-mail address is checked against the web address you gave
Your website is checked to make sure you exist
Apple then check you are in the Yellow Pages
What! Check that I’m in the Yellow Pages!
I understand the need to check that the company actually exists but how many internet companies are registered to a physical address and listed in the Yellow Pages? Most “companies” will be a small-time operation and not actually registered.
If you fail the “Yell check”, you have to provide a certificate of incorporation. How many internet companies have that?
All that said, Apple have done well to make the app store a place for professionally-created programs. They’ve taken it onto themselves to test and approve all apps which is a significant overhead, but the store is better for it.