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Samsung Amps Up Its Multi-Window Android Upgrade 229

Posted by timothy
from the like-ms-windows-eh? dept.
DeviceGuru writes "New multiwindow, multitasking features in Samsung's recent Jellybean update to the Galaxy Note 10.1 have pushed the user interface of Android tablets into new territory, adding MS Windows-like capabilities that are sure to delight many users — and aggravate others. Although some observers have warned of the dangers of forking Android, Samsung's efforts to extend Android and its ecosystem can be defended as being consistent with Google's master plan for the Android system, most of which is released under ASLv2. And remember: unlike Apple, Android device makers, and the wireless carriers who offer Android smartphones to their customers, need ways to differentiate their products."
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Samsung Amps Up Its Multi-Window Android Upgrade

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  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Thursday January 24, 2013 @03:56PM (#42683073)

    First, I find out last night that Attack of the Show was just Leo Laporte's bad dream all along, and now this. But I do love the delightful irony* of desktop OS maker Microsoft moving AWAY from the windows, building a more tablet/phone-oriented OS for desktops with Windows 8--at the same time as tablet/phone maker Samsung is moving TOWARDS the windows, building a more desktop-oriented OS for its tablets and phones with this. You can't make this shit up.

    * And before any of you grammar Nazi's start soiling your panties, yes, I am damned well familiar with the *classic* definition of "irony." So the first one of you pretentious pedagogues who feels the need to show everyone how big your intellectual dick is by pointing out that classic irony is more akin to what we generally call "sarcasm" today is going to get a visit from me tonight. And I've got diarrhea and a strong desire to leave a double-decker in every toilet in your house.

  • Oh, good. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Fallingcow (213461) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @04:02PM (#42683137) Homepage

    Awesome. More shit that can cause your app work on one Android tablet and not on another. Because there wasn't enough of that already.

    • Looks like the apps need to be multi-window enabled to use this, so probably not.

    • Indeed. Didn't they learn ANYTHING from Apple?

    • Re:Oh, good. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7NO@SPAMcornell.edu> on Thursday January 24, 2013 @04:46PM (#42683641) Homepage

      This is why CyanogenMod didn't implement Cornerstone. It's also why Samsung's multiwindow isn't worth all the hype it has been given:

      It only supports Samsung-customized Google Apps, a bunch of Samsung's own apps, and 1-2 third-party apps. Anything not in the multiwindow whitelist is blocked from multiwindow.

      Why? Because multiwindow fundamentally breaks the Android CTS and thus any app that is enabled for it must be "opt-in" at the discretion of the developer. If Samsung were to do this for all applications without a whitelist or apps "opting in" via a manifest entry, they would be blocked from the Play Store. Google treats devices breaking apps in the Play Store VERY seriously - When CyanogenMod was considering Cornerstone, they were effectively told that if some sort of "opt-in" mechanism weren't present, Google would be forced to blacklist CM. It's the same reason CM never merged in Paranoid Android's per-app DPI stuff... Google was VERY unhappy about that.

      The reason being: If an app developer gets 1-star reviews due to a device behaving badly, that device is probably going to be blacklisted from the Play Store if the app runs fine on any device the passes Google's CTS.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        What you say is true, but the feature is still very useful. For example I can browse and make notes in ColorNote, or have the Messenger app open too. I can look at messages when they come in without having to pause and close the video I am watching.

        I imagine Android will implement this in a future version now it has proven popular. That sort of thing happens a lot with Android, and is one of its strengths. Manufacturers can try things out, natural selection picks the best features and Google brings them in

      • Re:Oh, good. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by shutdown -p now (807394) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @07:06PM (#42685055) Journal

        The feature is nevertheless something that Android sorely needs if it wants to expand from plain tablets to Win8-style convertibles and laptops. Samsung did it because Google did not. I don't know how well Samsung APIs are designed; if they're good enough, Google should just take them and merge them into the main Android branch, and be done with it. If not, they should design something of their own, but do it now, before we have half a dozen incompatible windowing systems.

        • The feature is nevertheless something that Android sorely needs if it wants to expand from plain tablets to Win8-style convertibles and laptops.

          Unless Google is trying to intentionally segment the market: convertibles and laptops run Chrome OS, and plain tablets run Android.

          • It would be extremely stupid of them, in my opinion. ChromeOS doesn't have anywhere near the market share of Android, and I don't see that changing anytime soon. And personally, why would I want to buy two devices - a smartphone and a tablet convertible - and then buy the same (or similar) apps for each of them twice? Or, as a developer, why would I even be bothered to support ChromeOS today?

            Also, I haven't heard of any ChromeOS convertibles, and my understanding is that it is not really touch-oriented - so

            • by tepples (727027)

              And personally, why would I want to buy two devices - a smartphone and a tablet convertible - and then buy the same (or similar) apps for each of them twice? Or, as a developer, why would I even be bothered to support ChromeOS today?

              I think you may have answered your own question. Developers want you to have to buy apps twice. The other reason for developers to target Chrome Web Store is that they can sell to users of Chrome for Windows, Chrome for Mac, and Chrome for Linux, and I'm under the impression that a forthcoming version of Chrome for Android [slashdot.org] will support them as well.

              my understanding is that [Chrome] is not really touch-oriented

              How not? I run Chrome on my Android tablet, or at least a subset of Chrome that Google calls Chrome.

              • I think you may have answered your own question. Developers want you to have to buy apps twice.

                That is the reason for developers, not for Google. Why would Google want to placate developers rather than users here? Users are the ones who buy devices and provide eyeballs for ads. Furthermore, developers will still write apps for Android, just because it is already popular.

                Also, while developers might want users to buy apps twice, they don't want to have to write them twice for two completely different platforms (and even languages).

                The other reason for developers to target Chrome Web Store is that they can sell to users of Chrome for Windows, Chrome for Mac, and Chrome for Linux

                I know a lot of people using Chrome on Windows and OS X, and none of th

      • multiwindow fundamentally breaks the Android CTS

        How so? I tried Google multi-window android compatibility test suite and found this article [geek.com] that claims that the only reason CyanogenMod with Cornerstone doesn't pass the CTS is that CyanogenMod isn't bundled with a device.

    • Unless you write in your manifest that your app supports [ibtimes.com] the multi-window feature, this shouldn't affect you in the least.

  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @04:12PM (#42683251)

    it's turning into Windows. Fork that!

    • MS-hating aside, multiple window viewing and management on a physically small device like a tablet or phablet is just a bad UI idea, even if the screen resolution is high. Flipping the whole screen sideways between whole-window apps is a better idea.

      This gives me the impression of having come from the creative minds of people who think that managing windows on screen is synonymous with using a computer. That is a sadly narrow view, reflecting too much time spent in front of beige boxes.

      In the west, demograp

      • I haven't used Samsung's mod, but I have used Win8 tablets, which let you "dock" two apps side by side, and the feature can be immensely useful - e.g. you can have a window with your chat app, but also open the browser and look things up and quickly cut & paste them - much more convenient than flipping back and forth between two full-screen apps.

        Furthermore, Android isn't just about tablets anymore. There are convertible devices like Asus Transformer, and Samsung already has a Transformer-like device ru

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 24, 2013 @04:15PM (#42683287)

    You've got to love how having multi-window capability is being "MS Windows-like", according to the submitter. I guess we have a bit of computer history to rewrite again...

  • by Fri13 (963421) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @04:16PM (#42683303)

    Android device makers, and the wireless carriers who offer Android smartphones to their customers, need ways to differentiate their products.

    You do that mainly with hardware and with customer service.

    Then you can place own custom wallpaper and custom icons, but stupid way to do is to bake them to Android framework so user can not remove them.
    The correct (and smart) way would be to do a own launcher and own icon theme for it and make it available only for your hardware.
    OEM could make custom look, custom functions but should always allow easily the user to swap to vanilla Android look and functionality.

    Be a good OEM, support Android and give a customer change to actually like your product and use it as they want. OEM is hardware manufacturer what should focus for hardware first and then to user experience.

    • by Dynedain (141758) <slashdot2NO@SPAManthonymclin.com> on Thursday January 24, 2013 @04:34PM (#42683503) Homepage

      You do that mainly with hardware and with customer service.

      Look how well that worked for Dell, HP, Compaq, eMachines, IBM (desktop/laptop services), Sony (laptops), etc.

      Focusing on hardware results in a race to the bottom. And in the mobile market, customer service is a function of the carrier, not the device manufacturer. Apple has proven that the way to profits in saturated markets is to focus on the entire user experience. This gives them a major differentiator that lets them stand out and have a noticeable difference from other similar products.

      If you settle on being an Android device manufacturer, how are you different from other Android device manufacturers? Screen size and color of your case isn't enough.

      • by characterZer0 (138196) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @04:43PM (#42683581)

        It is only a race to the bottom because with current carrier subsidies nobody expects their phone to last more than a year or two anyway. If the hardware companies want to compete on hardware quality/price, they need to stand up to the carriers. If they do not, it is their own fault.

        • by Dynedain (141758)

          What's the point of hardware quality if it doesn't contribute to the overall user experience.

          Reliability and performance are only small parts of the equation. And if you don't have software differences, then you can't highlight reliability and performance differences anyways. Who cares if my processor is 500 times faster than my competitor's if Angry Birds plays equally well on both?

          • Angry Birds is your example for user experience? How about making a damn phone call? No modern smartphone matches the Motorola dumb phone I had 10 years ago for reception.

            • In America only old people use phone calls.

            • by Dynedain (141758)

              Pick any app you want. I chose Angry Birds because it's so damn ubiquitous that it is expected to run on any smartphone available.

              If your app/software doesn't behave any differently (aka your user experience is identical) on different Android devices, then what's the value in better machine specs?

      • by amiga3D (567632)

        Other than quality, design and price there is no way to differentiate. What else is there for makers of hardware? I bought a Samsung phone because I liked the design better than the ones for HTC, Motorola and others. They all run Android so what else really is there to go by?

        • by Dynedain (141758)

          That's exactly my point. Apple isn't running Android, just like Apple isn't running Windows. Because the control the software they have a much bigger impact on the overall user experience, as the software is arguably a larger factor in good user experience than the underlying hardware specs or bezel design.

          If Android manufacturers want to be differentiated from other Android manufacturers, and survive the race to the bottom on pricing, then they must find ways to innovate and improve the overall customer ex

      • or you could destinguish yourself with better specs, more ram more storage, more usb ports, sd card reader, or unique features like put in a CB radio tuner as some one that does a lot of fishing and camping out of cell phone range it would be nice to be able to comunicat with my freind on half lime down river or the other side a lake or just to save minutes. or integrated weather radio or stylus for writing, or come with hdtv tuner or am/fm tuner or any of a dozen more features to make each model stand out.

        • by Dynedain (141758)

          My point is that approach was tried in the desktop/laptop market. And in the end, customers care more about price than minor feature differences. As a result, all mass-market desktop/laptop Windows manufacturers started losing money when the boom tapered off, and now are indistinguishable, and forced to sell off business units.

          The only laptop manufacturer that has continued to experience massive growth is Apple, and that's because their product is noticeably and identifiable different by the consumer. So mu

          • So... customers care more about price then minor feature differences but are willing to pay a premium for Apple products that have minor feature differences...

            That makes sense.

            Oh and smartphones are hardly a budget market at the moment, if you want a budget phone, you get one for 50 dollars or less without a contract. 500-600 dollars for a smartphone is high-end. And they sell like hotcakes.

            • by Dynedain (141758)

              Umm... no. You put words in my mouth. Since Apple controls both hardware and software on their platform, they can present substantial feature variation, that is noticeably different from their competitors (the differentiators in marketing-speak). As such, they can overcome the hurdle of consumer price-sensitivity and charge substantially more, resulting in more profit. There is no substantial difference to the consumer between a Dell and HP laptop. As such, they compete on price alone; the race to the botto

        • Or you could distinguish yourself by supporting your hardware with software upgrades as long as the hardware is capable. replaceable SD cards and batteries, and the option to install Cyanogenmod^H^H^H^H^H another OS.

          Then again, you could be Nokia.

      • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @06:07PM (#42684473) Journal

        I am seriously starting to dislike Android. When it runs, it is fine BUT if you want to upgrade (coming from a DOS, Unix, Linux and Windows background) FORGET about it. It is gigantic fucking mess where you are totally at the mercy of the manufacturer as to whether your model gets an upgrade. Cyanogenmod isn't an answer either, it is FAR from a generic Android that just "works". If Android was Linux you would have distro's that ONLY ran on ONE model of Dell and then had 1 year after release small niggling bugs like the monitor not yet working...

        Now I grew up with Unix, Dos, Windows and Linux. I am no stranger to having to hunt for drivers and have to deal with weird configurations and installing stuff in just the right order. But with ALL the above, you at least have the OPTION to do so.

        With Android? No drivers, no configs, no nothing. Either you spend ages learning how to cook a release to tweak it or you just don't. The debug options to are shockingly bad even compared to Windows. It would be a LOT better if there was just a default install you could do and install drivers that Google required each company to make available for install if they want to use Android.

        But they didn't and you suddenly realize just how fucking open the Windows platform is by comparison, just how complete Linux is.

        I am either going to stick with Nexus devices in the future or hope an alternative emerges because I am NOT going to be stuck with a device that is not going to be updated by Samsung ever again.

        You don't have to differentiate with screen/case etc. JUST FUCKING UPDATE YOUR FUCKING DEVICE! That will make you fucking unique in Android land. The first company that manages to release a device that can ALWAYS run the latest Android version will leave ALL the other companies in the dust.

    • by kamapuaa (555446) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @04:35PM (#42683513) Homepage

      You do that mainly with hardware and with customer service.

      But the hardware is all reaching towards one end goal: a big screen, fast enough, good resolution, not too big. Sure there's some room for variation, like maybe one has a larger battery at the expense of weighing an extra half an ounce, but there's really not not much to differentiate.

      Soon, generic Chinese manufacturers will be able to make a phone that has a big screen, is fast enough, has good resolution, and isn't too big. It will load the same Android OS as everybody else. And it will be priced as a commodity. Nobody will pay more because they like the custom look better.

      And customer service? I've never had to deal with a phone's customer service, ever. If it's a factor at all, it's a very small one.

    • by alvinrod (889928)
      Hardware isn't good enough anymore. Almost everyone is using the same off-the-shelf parts and in some cases, the field (TI isn't selling OMAP SoCs any more) is growing smaller. It's made worse by the fact that there's one company (Samsung) that can make most of their own hardware and edge everyone else out on margins if they want. We can already see this happening as outside of Samsung, other handset manufacturers are barely profitable if at all.

      Eventually Chinese manufacturers will be able to undercut S
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @04:20PM (#42683347)

    Well really there are three Androids now:

    1) Amazon
    2) Samsung
    3) Everyone else

    Samsung by grabbing so much market share of Android sales, now how the power to drive Android in a direction it wants to go.

    Its not a bad or a good thing; it's just what is. If I were doing Android development supporting Samsung extensions would seem to be a pretty good idea.

    • Well really there are three Androids now: 1) Amazon 2) Samsung 3) Everyone else
      Which ever one of those vendors fixes the bluetooth stack in 4.2.1 to work w/ my in car audio gets my business, I have no need for 8-12 tiles/windows, but I do need for shit that wasn't broken to remain not broken going forward.
    • Their Jelly Bean version of TouchWiz moved closer to vanilla Android at the same time that Android was taking a few cues from TouchWiz with the quick settings menu. I wouldn't be shocked to see Samsung's version and vanilla to merge closer together so long as Samsung is selling as much hardware as they are.

      With high resolution tablet displays and powerful multi-core ARM processors, true multitasking becomes more viable. Why ignore that?

    • by marsu_k (701360)

      In a way, that is already happening - 4.2 features "quick settings" which have been around for ages in TouchWiz, for example. Whether vanilla Android does it better than Samsung is debatable, but personally I don't mind that such features can go "upstream".

      WRT to the article - I haven't got a Note, but I have multi-window support on my stock (international) S3, and mostly it is a gimmick. It doesn't offer the "cascade view" as in TFA, but you can have two apps side-by-side. And unless doing very much of cop

      • I really don't see how this functionality fragments Android.

        It doesn't exactly fragment in the traditional way, but I believe you can code in some ways that enhance your apps use in the multi-window mode - but because Samsung is such a large component of the Android market and also most of the higher end of it, if I were making an Android app I'd specifically add whatever support made sense for that even though it is Android specific.

      • by Cinder6 (894572)

        I think it would be a nice feature to have on my iPad, if only so I could have an IM window open on one side of the screen, and a web browser/whatever else on the other. (Or maybe a movie on one side, or ___ or ___.) There are certainly uses, though I doubt I'd ever use it on a phone.

    • The N4/N7/N10 are pretty much flying off the shelves as fast as they can make them.

    • by steelfood (895457)

      I suspect Google still sets the standard for what's Android. Until Samsung's app store or Amazon's app store is as big as and different from Google's, they don't have their own version of Android quite yet.

      Yeah, Samsung and Amazon can customize or fork to their heart's delight. But they may lose compatibility to Google's app store and maybe 3rd party stores, and that'd be a huge hit to their offerings.

      Android is more than an OS. Like iOS, it's an ecosystem. And that ecosystem requires apps. It's not unlike

  • They're free to fork it if they want. If google doesn't like it then tough. They can think back to the time they pissed off oracle and the Linux kernel people. Besides that's what happens when you flood the market with a bunch of nearly identical cheap phones. Hardware people will need to stand out in some way and unlike the iPhone most of them have shit margins and won't have a problem doing what they think they can do to protect their position
    • by Cito (1725214)

      They should write a full Android for desktop fork :)

      I'd give it whirl, would be great for older boxes, and I like the interface, just rip out the touch shit and make it more mouse friendly

      id enjoy that

    • They're free to fork it if they want. If google doesn't like it then tough.

      Actually, if Google doesn't like it, Samsung will be forbidden to call it Android. This already happened once with Acer. [engadget.com] What makes you think Google won't spank Samsung too if necessary?

      • Samsung is the top Android seller. They could spank them but then maybe Samsung will say fine and go off and do their own thing and take a lot of people with them and cut Google out.
  • Nobody uses the term "Android" when pitching to consumers, but Samsung is particularly aggressive about differentiating their software. If all the distributions competed only on hardware it would be a boring market.
  • by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @04:53PM (#42683733) Homepage

    wireless carriers who offer Android smartphones to their customers, need ways to differentiate their products

    In my experience when carriers try to 'differentiate' their phones, they install shitware, cripple the device, and sometimes even modify it to cost you more money.

    Years ago when phones which could surf the web were new, a friend spent an entire weekend trying to reconcile his charged bandwidth with what he believed it should have been -- in the end, the way the carrier had injected themselves into the process ended up sending twice as much data. It could have been innocent, or it could have been a cash grab. The end result was the same, a slower more costly data plan.

    In my experience, the carrier specific stuff installed on a phone makes it worse. On my current Android phone, I disabled everything specific to the carrier and ended up with a *far* better phone, because they want to stick themselves into everything or sell you ring tones and other shit.

    Carriers usually aren't qualified to do a good job of this, and they're only looking out for their own profits.

  • I'll let the "forking android" conversation run its course. From the point of a casual tablet user, this is progress. There are lots of times it's a hassle to have some info in one app, and some in another, and only be permitted to have one open at a time. This may be confusing or cause the world to stop spinning or whatever, but to me it's useful.

  • Hasn't Samsung learned its lesson when it copied Apple and got fined a billion dollars for doing so?

  • OK, Samsung is the biggest player in Android right now, but seeing as how so many iOS and Andoid devs seem to have so much trouble making their apps scale to different resolutions, I wonder how many 'windowing' apps we will ultimately see.

    I don't know anything about developing for those platforms; can anyone here say how hard or trivial it is?
    (Like, why did I get an update for virtually all my iPhone and iPad apps when the iPhone 5 came out, although they seemed to be just to cater for the different screen

  • Needing multiple windows on a tablet or phone means you are using it wrong, or really want to be using a laptop.

    • by 4pins (858270)

      Needing multiple windows on a tablet or phone means you are using it wrong, or really want to be using a laptop.

      That is what I thought, then I picked up my laptop running Windows 8.

      The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

    • Needing multiple windows on a tablet or phone means you are using it wrong, or really want to be using a laptop.

      I do want to be using a laptop, but they don't make 10" laptops anymore. Only tablets remain in that size range according to a Slashdot story from a month ago [slashdot.org].

  • It's great that Samsung is making multiple windows possible, now how about making it work as a phone? The only time my phone has ever crashed was when I was making a call. It's a PHONE. Making a call is it's PRIMARY PURPOSE. If it screws up when sending a text or an e-mail, or while playing a game, that is understandable, but if it is making a call, there is no excuse for that ever failing. My 20 year old bag phone never rebooted when trying to make a call. Neither did my Motorola brick, flip phone, or any
    • by Microlith (54737)

      It's a PHONE. Making a call is it's PRIMARY PURPOSE.

      Given how people use their devices these days, I'd argue that actual voice calls are a secondary, possibly tertiary function these days.

      The correct response is that it should not crash while fulfilling any of its core functions, nor should applications be able to crash it.

    • by Dynedain (141758)

      It's a PHONE. Making a call is it's PRIMARY PURPOSE.

      Good for you. Making a phone call is one of the many uses for the device in my pocket. However, phone calls are definitely not the leading use either by time or frequency. Web surfing, ebook reading, or email all happen more on my "smartphone" than voice calling.

  • If you don't like the user interface that the handset manufactuer cooked up and puked on your Android phone, just install ADW Launcher [google.com] on it, and you get a functional as well as speedy.

    I did that on my Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc to get rid of Sony's TimeScape.

  • Is there any potential for them to prevent other android companies from making similar changes to android? My worry here is they patent the modifications and prevent them from showing up in the main branch of android code if someone later on wants to add their own version of the same features to main android.
  • by frisket (149522) <peter@NOSPAM.silmaril.ie> on Thursday January 24, 2013 @07:12PM (#42685111) Homepage

    And remember: unlike Apple, Android device makers, and the wireless carriers who offer Android smartphones to their customers, need ways to differentiate their products.

    No they fucking well do not.

    Only in the USA would this be regarded as a virtue or a requirement. I don't want to have to choose between crippled-version-of-Android-1, crippled-version-of-Android-2, crippled-version-of-Android-3, etc when what I want is a decent device knowing that the system will be the same no matter which device I choose.

    The last thing on earth we need is wireless carriers and telcos who bugger around with the OS because they think their ghastly sucky software is sooooo terribly important.

    Oh, wait, we already have them...

    • by Dynedain (141758)

      If you want to make sales and stay in business as an Android manufacturer, yes you do need a way to differentiate yourself from other Android manufacturers. Otherwise the only thing to compete on is price, and that's a race to the bottom with shrinking profit margins to see who can put out the cheapest possible product. See desktop Windows computers as a prime example for this market phenomenon.

  • Am I missing something or isn't this just using Fragments? Possible with ActivityGroups in prior versions as well.
  • keeping it simple is the hard part.

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