Google’s Duarte on Android Honeycomb
Engadget has a great interview with Matias Duarte on Honeycomb. Honeycomb is the newest version of Android and currently in development (guided tour at Engadget). About Duarte:
- His position is “Director of Android User Experience”
- His main credentials are that he was the designer of WebOS. Google hired him away from HP.
- The design vision he brings to the table is one of the greatest threats
to Apple. So far, Android has mainly had a great development team, but lacked a coherent design.
Most important points of the interview:
- He considers Android a humanist endeavor of Google’s. I have my reservations. Not all of Android is open source (Android Market!) and I wonder how it makes long-term strategic sense for Google. Android’s openness also allowed carriers to exert more (negative) influence. Device and app store fragmentations are further issues. Android is a fascinating antipodal approach to Apple’s iOS (and Windows Phone 7, for that matter). Both have their pros and cons (which haters and fanboys on both sides seem to be unable to appreciate).
- Honeycomb is for phones and tablets.
- His goal is to remove from Android what does not work in addition to adding new features.
- He mentions the challenge of working with the status quo on Android, as opposed to starting freshly.
- Honeycomb will give manufacturers a choice of using buttons or not. Many Honeycomb tablets will have a buttonless design, often with gestures performed on the bezel (similar to what WebOS does). He says that this fosters muscle memory: Tablets frequently change orientation and virtual buttons “stay in place”, while hardware button change (relative) position.
- When asked what improvements Honeycomb will bring, he lists as examples: improved consistency, more explicit multitasking with cards that show what the currently running app looks like (where icons require the mental effort of associating them with their apps), context-sensitive bars with most frequently used commands replacing hidden menus.
- Long-presses make things feel slow (the cursor on iOS comes to mind)
which is why they eliminated having to long-press a button to activate multi-tasking.
- Topolsky really pressed him about all the UI modifications that various companies make, but he didn’t bite. His goal is for Android to be a common infrastructure that others can build on and customize.
- Honeycomb will be out in February (I’ve also read March somewhere), not all features have been revealed, yet.