Open source's UI handicap explains Google's Honeycomb move

Open source's UI handicap explains Google's Honeycomb move

Summary: Google is reportedly holding back Android 3.0 Honeycomb code from open source developers in a move that's causing a good bit of angst. Can open source do UI?

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Google is reportedly holding back Android 3.0 Honeycomb code from open source developers in a move that's causing a good bit of angst. However, the move may make some sense considering the high stakes in the tablet market.

BusinessWeek reports:

Google says it will delay the distribution of its newest Android source code, dubbed Honeycomb, at least for the foreseeable future. The search giant says the software, which is tailored specifically for tablet computers that compete against Apple's iPad, is not yet ready to be altered by outside programmers and customized for other devices, such as phones.

In other words, Honeycomb isn't ready for prime time or to be released to the masses. The unfortunate thing is that Honeycomb is already on the market and dinging tablets like Motorola Mobility's Xoom. Google's Android chief Andy Rubin admitted that "design compromises" were made to get Honeycomb to market.

Add it up and Android is open---until the stakes are really high. But what about Android for smartphones? The phone version of Android had a different table stakes. The field---aside from Apple's iOS---was fairly open. RIM was snoozing as was Microsoft.

The tablet market is different. Apple dominates the field and there's a bevy of rivals gunning to be No. 2. You have one shot to make an impression. Google realizes that Honeycomb isn't the first impression it was looking for. Now the company needs to shepherd Honeycomb more, bake the code and then release to developers. Honeycomb, an OS built by geeks for geeks, may not cut it.

One interesting question here is the role of the open source community in consumer applications. Linux picked up in the data center because it's cheap, effective and largely future proof. Then again, data center wonks aren't looking for aesthetics. Open source is functional, but can it be beautiful?

Frankly, we don't know. When you play with Android it's clear it doesn't have the polish of Apple's iOS or Microsoft's Windows Phone 7. On the desktop, it's worth noting that Ubuntu has taken control of its user interface fate. That move makes sense too. Desktop Linux needs to do more than mimic existing operating systems to lure the masses. You need more pizazz. See: Gallery: Ubuntu 11.04 Alpha 3

I'm left to conclude that an open source army can take you far, but when the user interface matters it's hard to herd the cats.

Google will get developers the Honeycomb code, but it needs to control more of the process to have a shot against Apple. Android is open---until it matters the most.

Topics: Smartphones, Android, Open Source, Mobility, Mobile OS, Laptops, Hardware, Google, Apple, Tablets

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107 comments
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  • RE: Open source's UI handicap explains Google's Honeycomb move

    Linux has always been ugly, there is no changing that.
    Loverock Davidson
    • RE: Open source's UI handicap explains Google's Honeycomb move

      @Loverock Davidson
      What do you mean ugly? I don't get it when people say Linux is ugly, It's strange when people say Win 7's Aero is soo much better than Linux. Ehhemmm have you ever heard the word "compiz", "emareld", "kde", ha? ha? have you? No? then, Google it.
      asdacap
      • RE: Open source's UI handicap explains Google's Honeycomb move

        @asdacap
        I don't use google.
        Loverock Davidson
      • I really hate to agree with LR on this one but...

        @asdacap

        Up till Ubuntu, Linux and all of its various "skins" from kde to gnome were simply <b>ugly</b>. Functional but the proportions, colors, shading, basic shapes, mouse...

        Everything.

        Was ugly.
        Bruizer
      • RE: Open source's UI handicap explains Google's Honeycomb move

        That isn't very bright, Bruizer. KDE among other window managers can be made to look however you want it to look.
        michael@...
      • RE: Open source's UI handicap explains Google's Honeycomb move

        @michael "KDE among other window managers can be made to look however you want it to look. "<br><br>If you're a top-notch artist and have time to burn.<br><br>Otherwise, this claim is pretty laughable.<br><br>You want me to burn the midnight oil with Photoshop trying to make the UI look exactly how I want it to look?<br><br>Seriously?<br><br>I'd rather have a program launcher that looks and acts professional out of the box, thanks.
        CobraA1
      • Windows Aero is better

        Windows Aero is the best UI on the OS market. But I realize that the small percentage of Linux users will never admit it. Linux users are much like Apple fans. They defend their minority. I say good for you! But your still wrong!
        jscott418-22447200638980614791982928182376
      • michael@...: So if you redo it, it looks OK?

        @asdacap

        Even with a different skinning, the usage and overall feel and layout is very ugly. I have used manny different KDE tweaks and schemes and they all feel like they were born in the 90's.

        So yes, KDE is <b>UGLY</b>. Ubuntu finally started taking UI design considerations into place in their layout, color and behavior so it works and looks right from the start.
        Bruizer
      • RE: Open source's UI handicap explains Google's Honeycomb move

        @CobraA1
        I use KDE, I'm a visual designer, and I don't think it looks ugly. Besides you have no need to use a image processor to customise the interface. Your comment shows that you have never use something like Gnome or KDE.
        drnn1076
      • RE: Open source's UI handicap explains Google's Honeycomb move

        @asdacap Mac is Linux silly boy.
        bellum80
      • RE: Open source's UI handicap explains Google's Honeycomb move

        @asdacap <br><br>yeah what do they mean ugly , <br><a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKQbN6tpYXw&feature=related" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"><a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKQbN6tpYXw&feature=related" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKQbN6tpYXw&feature=related</a></a>

        people today dont know their ugly... but its functional for the time funny enough
        techU
      • RE: Open source's UI handicap explains Google's Honeycomb move

        @jscott - Without Quartz Extreme and Aqua, Microsoft would have nothing worth copying from and the Windows UI would still look like something from Fisher Price. And even with Apple to copy from, Microsoft still got some usability things wrong (it shouldn't take more than 3 steps to change my display resolution).

        @bellum80 - Wrong, but thanks for playing. Here's a copy of the Darwin variant of BSD, which is a compliant UNIX distribution and the backbone of OS X.
        Champ_Kind
      • RE: Open source's UI handicap explains Google's Honeycomb move

        @Champ_Kind
        I don't think it takes more than 3 steps to change the display resolution (on Windows 7), although it depends on what you call a step.
        You can either right click on the disktop and select "Screen Resolution", or you can hit the windows key and type the first letters in [then hit enter].
        Select the desired display resolution.
        Click Apply.
        xnederlandx
    • RE: Open source's UI handicap explains Google's Honeycomb move

      @Loverock Davidson
      I dont use google either! You are the best!

      MS rules!
      BarneytheClimber
      • RE: Open source's UI handicap explains Google's Honeycomb move

        @BarneytheClimber
        I always find it interesting how people react when you tell them you use bing. "Google" appears to be the only socially accepted answer.
        xnederlandx
    • RE: Open source's UI handicap explains Google's Honeycomb move

      @Loverock Davidson
      It's time for you to find Enlightenment
      http://www.enlightenment.org/p.php?p=about&l=en
      jeverettk
    • Ugly for sure!

      I have always thought of Linux as a poor mans OS. Or just a corporate hater dream. For as many times groups have tried to spruce up Linux. Its still not much to brag about. Could it be that its time has already passed? All I can say is that if Google can't make it happen. Nobody can.
      jscott418-22447200638980614791982928182376
      • Ugly??

        @jscott418
        Is that all you compare to determine what IT solution is best. Linux blows Windows away in what it can do and what you are permitted to do with it. So you like how pretty Windows is, so that makes it better? You choose expensive bloated cripple-ware over fluid technology that gets the job, any job, done with far less strain on your system and your budget, and your mind. Just because you don't know Linux and do not care to learn it, you find silly inane excuses to discredit it. Foolish on your part indeed--keep suffering by your own choice my friend. I'll pick Linux any day over anything out there.
        kzahorec@...
    • Ugly??

      @Loverock Davidson
      If you want to see ugly, then read the Windows EULA. THAT is ugly. If you want to see beauty and opportunity read the GPL. Now if you want to get something done in in a very big way you will want to pick Linux because the proprietary alternatives are designed mostly to feed a business, not deliver effective solutions.
      kzahorec@...
    • RE: Open source's UI handicap explains Google's Honeycomb move

      @Loverock Davidson

      My 13yr old son recently asked me to take Windoz "off" of his Netbook after he watched the new release of openSUSE LINUX on my notebook. He loved it! "AND", after I put it on his Netbook, it ran much, much faster than Windoz did.

      Why? Because it doesn't have all the sloppy programming in it to slow it down! And it was the "GUI", the thing you call "ugly" that he loved the most about it!
      rAllcorn