Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Will Put Apps in Your Apps

By  |  Tuesday, July 5, 2011 at 11:08 pm

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.


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30 Comments For This Post

  1. Tommy Carlier Says:

    History repeats itself. Macintosh Desk Accessories all over again.

  2. Jared Newman Says:

    As a Windows user I thought of Notepad and Calculator first. Maybe I'm old-school but I use those programs all the time.

  3. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    Those are sad clones of the Mac desk accessories.

  4. king Says:

    check out windows 8 demo. it runs two apps at the same time.

  5. Jared Newman Says:

    Yep, I mentioned it in the post.

  6. Charles Forsythe Says:

    "Apple’s iOS 5 will allow iPad users to swipe between open apps with four- or five-finger gestures."

    I guess it was only a matter of time before Apple users started throwing down gang signs.

  7. David Says:

    I think Samsung is making mistake. One thing that really stands out to me when I watch non-power users on the desktop is that they tend to use one program at a time. They tend to maximize programs.

    I believe that Apple, at a fundamental level, understands how people use their machines and the iOS is the result. I believe that attempts to duplicate the desktop/laptop experience on a laptop is doomed to failure.

    They simply are two different devices with different strengths and weaknesses. When I'm on my desktop, working, I use three monitors. I've never liked working on laptops unless I have no choice. because they don't provide the screen real estate I crave. Therefore, when I'm on a laptop or tablet(my iPad), I have a different set of expectations.

    This attempt to recreate the desktop on the tablet is but one reason I think Android will have a tough go of it. And swapping between side-by-side programs on a tablet will suffer a similar usability fate.

  8. Mike Thrane Says:

    Yes, but this can target the tablet toward a more technical audience.

  9. David Says:

    I am a professional software developer with over 16 yrs of experience in Java, C#, C++, a slew of RDBMS(Oracle, DB2, SQL Server, PostGres) and pretty versed in a wide range of technology.

    I'm pretty hardcore and I still love the iPad.

  10. Jared Newman Says:

    I agree that tablets shouldn't try to duplicate the laptop/desktop experience, but I think there is a demand for an easier way to use two apps in tandem. Some people want to use their tablets for productivity and the current methods for app switching aren't ideal. My old man has tried to grade papers on his iPad, and has complained about the inconvenience of moving between e-mail and Pages. Samsung's taking a different approach — basically, a pop-up utility drawer — that might do the trick.

  11. David Says:

    Maybe. But define productivity. I want to use a laptop for productivity, but I cannot because a laptops are too slow, the screen's too small, the keyboard's too small, and no easy way to support my multi-monitor setup or swap video cards for example.

    There is seems to be a habit if trying to define universal productivity when it is different things to different people. By some metrics, I could never be productive on a tablet. But I don't expect to be able to do the same things on a tablet that I do on a desktop. I expect the trade-off, just as there is when I must have the portability of a laptop. When I use one, coding my productivity suffers. But my mobile productivity increases. My ability to troubleshoot onsite increases.

    With a tablet, my mobile productivity increases even more. But I cannot code at all.

    Similarly, a tablet means I can do certain things in the living room with the family that I cannot do with a desktop. I can spend time and still be productive or I can be just spend time.

    The sales simply don't appear to be there for my type of productivity and perhaps for other certain types of productivity. I submit that what you see, in the hard sales numbers is a rejection of this idea that people, generally want to duplicate that experience.

    I am curious, what's his workflow? How does grading involve Pages and email?

  12. Jared Newman Says:

    Not sure what his workflow is, exactly, but I believe he's pulling up assignments submitted by e-mail and and grading in Pages. Or maybe he's pulling up assignments in Pages and grading them via e-mail.

    Re: productivity. Everyone will define it differently — fair point — but I do think over time people will aspire to do on a tablet the kinds of things they once accomplished on a laptop. That can mean a lot of things, but one of those things might be the ability to to move quickly between applications when performing a single task.

    I could be wrong — there may always be a sharp divide between desktop productivity and mobile productivity — but I think the trend is toward one device that serves many purposes. That won't happen without the proper software.

  13. David Says:

    And that is my point. I don't believe people will aspire to do the same things or at least they won't aspire to do the same things the same way.

    It would make more sense, to me, to have an single specialized app to handle the task.

  14. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    Why wouldn't you just use the calculator or notes on your phone? There are only thousands of each of those apps on every phone platform. These Samsung apps not only likely suck, they will almost certainly break in a future OS update just like Windows crapware.

    We have multiple computers now, down to a $229 iPod touch. Stop trying to run everything on one computer.

  15. David Says:

    In a real sense, you are correct. It's like the "true" multitasking debate. Who cares? Who is really saying "I want to run a video while browsing, while checking email."?

    This is the advantage, I think of Apple's background services. It attacks the use case that most people want, technical and standard both.

    Only a few people want to see so much at one time on such a small screen. And I'll argue that this is more of a bullet point bragging feature that a true usability item.

    Look at the Playbook commercials. In terms of multitasking, what have they demonstrated being able to do with a Playbook that you can't do with iPad? You leave the video, go to a browser or email. Then come back. You can't do that with an iPad.

    Ditto with Android and now the Touchpad. Edge cases don't move product.

  16. The_Heraclitus Says:

    Apple might decide to play catch up with this feature on its iPads.

  17. The_Heraclitus Says:

    LOL! Anonymous down rates by Apple fan trolls.

  18. Dan Says:

    Some app companies are trying to answer this issue with existing systems. In Precentral's "Best HP TouchPad Apps" article ( they include a beta app from Inglorious Apps which allows you to create a customizable widget page. Their screenshot puts Twitter, Calendar, and the web browser on a single screen.

    I see no reason why this concept could not be put into effect on other tablets. It may not be the ultimate ideal of true multi-tasking, but it may get us 70% there with the tablets of today.

  19. Madison McPheeters Says:

    I'm a little surprised nobody did this in tablets before. I wonder why not?

  20. bob stepno Says:

    Sounds like borland sidekick, circa 1983.

  21. rob Says:

    I gotta say, that tablet is not too bad.

    re: "why not just use another device to do calculator, for example on your cellphone? or ipod?"

    I would prefer to make two or three finger presses on my tablet to do a little math rather than: dig my phone out of my pocket, unlock it, adjust the brightness settings for my current environment, oops text message from my coworker, gotta call him back, where did i leave his stapler? what was I doing again?

    also re: from david: "It's like the "true" multitasking debate. Who cares? Who is really saying "I want to run a video while browsing, while checking email."?

    If i'm shelling out big bucks for a tablet, and I have the option to run multiple applications all at the same time, I am naturally going to be attracted to that option. I'm coming from a world that is a little unorganized, and having lots of options at my disposal however trivial they might seem helps me get things done during my day.

    I'm sure not everyone is going to need to watch a video email and browse at the same time, but I do it all the time, and i imagine kids growing up being able to walk, text, talk, and play basketball all at the same time might be interested in that functionality.

  22. David Says:

    Sure rob. But the problem is that you, sir, are an edge case and edge cases don't move units. The Android, Playbook and Touchpad tablets are experiencing this today.

    Full blown windows tablets did this for years and didn't sell. You speak like mutlitasking is new. Computers have been offering mainstream mostly preemptive multitasking since Windows 95 and kids who grew up with that are adults who are buying iPads and not buying Touchpads, Playbooks and Android tablets and don't multitask much…walk,text,talk and play baskeball not withstanding.

  23. Rob Says:

    My wife is a prime use case for being able to readily switch between two apps, even if they cannot appear on the screen simultaneously. She is very, very far from being a power user. Nevertheless, she has gotten very comfortable with her iPad and iPod Touch. The latter is used mostly for audio for her and games for the kids. The former is used for a variety of things, including web browsing and Bible and other book reading. She often accesses a dictionary and would love to be able to take notes easily while using the other apps, but that isn’t easily done at present, so she doesn’t do it.

    The tablet environment needn’t replicate the desktop OS interface, but it must allow for limited, simultaneous use of applications to account for more use cases. If nothing else, doing so will make tablets more appealing to power users who, unlike David, find it irksome to reduce their expectations so much.

  24. David Says:

    Sure that's it. I have reduced my expectations. You and so-called "power-users" sound like command line people during the rise of GUIs. Ignoring the fact that so-called power users are just that users as opposed to professional developers like myself, people like you where carping about how the tech was insufficient for your existing use cases.

    Eventually, the software changed to take advantage of the new paradigm and now, command-lines based apps are mostly a dim memory.

    Tablets and touchbased programs are undergoing a similar change. How you use the device is radically different than the mouse/keyboard of switching between windows that you wish to stick to. That method, I would argue is inherently inefficient especially on a 10" screen In addition, I would argue that this solution is a holdever and new concepts will emerge to handle the problem.

    iOS 5, for example, integrates dictionary functions *into* the OS. So all apps will get this function automatically, at worse with a recompile. Gee, that would seem to eliminate the need to "often" switch to access the dictionary.

    It's a shame that Apple didn't , instead, create a standalone floating dictionary app as opposed to crafting a different solution that takes switching out of the equation. It would have been better to "raise" their expectations, like Rob, than to think outside the box.

  25. Tyler Says:

    The tablet world is no doubt hamstrung by the limited screen real estate offered by tabets. This is still no excuse for limitations on simultaneously running applications. Give me more options on a tablet and I can decide how to use them.

    I agree that the UX needs to be optimized and that we are in a constant state of flux in terms of interface, but the ability to do more, rather than less, is much more appealing to me.

  26. rob 1 Says:

    re: davids: "I believe that attempts to duplicate the desktop/laptop experience on a laptop is doomed to failure. "

    I totally agree. Did you mean "on a tablet?" if you did then I totally agree.

    re: david's "Tablets and touchbased programs are undergoing a similar change. How you use the device is radically different than the mouse/keyboard of switching between windows that you wish to stick to. That method, I would argue is inherently inefficient especially on a 10" screen In addition, I would argue that this solution is a holdever and new concepts will emerge to handle the problem. "


    david's re: " I think Samsung is making mistake."

    If you argue that Samsung's Mini Apps are only temporary until new concepts come along, along that same reasoning you could call Edison's early lightbulb, only a temporary holdover until more stable filaments were developed, which were a holdover until fluorescent lights, which were a holdover untill LED lights came along.

    Innovation will happen, companies have a lot of incentive to innovate, when they see a problem, or hear feedback from their competitors customers, they'll try to find a solution, instead of sitting back on their heels waiting for someone else to solve it for them. i don't think they'll get it perfect, no one will ever get it perfect, no one will get it close to perfect. By the time the perfect Idea comes around, we'll be onto the next device.

    I do totally agree with you that this is a very clunky time in the tablet world, moving from desktops to laptops and now to cellphones and tablets in the period of 5 years is pretty nuts.

  27. rob 1 Says:

    and just to punctuate that…

    if Samsung is making a mistake by releasing merely a "holdover" until another company does the job better, would you suggest Edison made a mistake because he should have waited around for someone to make a better lightbulb before he did?

  28. David Says:

    rob: Yes, I meant tablet.

    I think that Samsung's solution is another type of candle.

    I don't think it is a lightbulb at all. I think that Samsung had the opportunity to come up with something and could not. At the risk of this taking a turn for the worse, I think they don't have Apple''s chops when it comes to design and to be frank, are waiting to see what someone else. perhaps Apple, does.

    I think, that if someone, invented a lightbulb that behaved as a candle, but had the problems if a lightbulb(glass, harder to make, pricey) , lightbulbs would have failed. Bulbs were different and brought something different to the table.

    I think the same is true of tablets and require, not clunky(I'll use that) desktop metaphors, but a new method entirely. A desktop metaphor, IMO, makes for a poor tablet and won't be a good seller, IMO.

  29. Jamie Says:

    Use a PC to do any actual work.

  30. Greg Says:

    Cornerstone supports side by side apps on Android already.