Samsung may be onto something with the TouchWiz interface that it plans to release for the Galaxy Tab 10.1.
A new promotional video for the tablet shows off what Samsung is calling “Mini Apps” — a collection of utilities that can be launched on top of other Android applications. These include a notepad, calendar, task manager, clock, music player and calculator. They’re the kind of utlities you’d find on a desktop OS, coming in handy for other tasks.
Tablets need more of this. One of my big frustrations with current tablet software is how inconvenient it can be to perform one task that requires two programs, such as taking notes off a web page or adding up numbers from an e-mail. Switching between apps can be a chore if you have to go back and forth several times.
So far, tablets have attacked the multitasking issue with creative ways of switching apps. In Android, there’s a button that brings up a list of recently-used programs. Apple’s iOS 5 will allow iPad users to swipe between open apps with four- or five-finger gestures. WebOS lets users sort open apps into stacks. But none of these approaches allow you to use and view more than one app at once. Samsung’s Mini Apps set out to do this in a limited way.
But why stop there? Eventually, I’d like to see tablets that can run any two apps — or even two instances of the same app — side by side. That’s what Microsoft is setting out to do with Windows 8, whose tablet interface will let users drag a second app into the frame, but the OS is too far from completion to judge how well that’ll work in the real world.
If tablets are going to be the future of computing, they’ll have to get better at productivity, and that means having the ability to do two things at once. Samsung’s approach is, at least, a good start.