Is Honeycomb Android's Vista?

Is Honeycomb Android's Vista?

Summary: With Honeycomb, Google could have a Vista-like situation on its hands. Microsoft's salvation was Windows 7, and Google's is IceCream.

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You remember Vista don't you? Microsoft's much maligned operating system that followed Windows XP? I'm sure many of you are trying to forget it, so apologies for the reminder. The reason I bring it up is that there are many parallels between Vista and Android Honeycomb. Google could have another Vista on its hands, and it would do well to learn from Microsoft's ordeal.

By many measures Vista was a vast improvement over its predecessor. 5 years in the making, it introduced the visually stunning Aero interface, integrated search, better security, ReadyBoost, SuperFetch, IPv6, Direct3D 10, and more. By mid-2008, over 180 million copies had been sold.

This pales in comparison to Windows XP, however. The industry breathed a sigh of relief when Vista was replaced in 2009 with Windows 7. By early 2011, Win7 sales passed 300 million. Many enterprise customers skipped Vista altogether and went from XP to Win7.

What was wrong with Vista (and Honeycomb)?

So what was wrong with Vista? There were a number of individual problems such as incompatibility with older devices, and a penchant for asking for security permission on many common operations. But I think the biggest one was perception.

Consider that in its first year of availability, PC World named it as the biggest tech disappointment of 2007, and InfoWorld rated it #2 on a list of Tech's all-time flops. Just the mention of the name "Vista" was enough to scare off potential users. In one marketing campaign users rated Vista 4.4 out of 10 but gave a new operating system named "Mojave" 8.5 out of 10. Mojave was just Vista with a different name.

Now compare that with how Windows 7 was received. PC World named it one of the best products of 2009. CNET described Win7 as "what Vista should have been", giving it 4.5 out of 5 stars. Techradar called it "the best Windows OS ever".

Win7 must have been a major rewrite of Vista for this kind of turnaround, right? Nope. Windows 7 is basically Vista with a few focused, incremental enhancements such as a new Taskbar, transparent window borders, and some performance tweaks. The system requirements are the same as Vista, and the drivers are the same.

If some hardware didn't work with Vista it wouldn't work with Win7 either. But everybody loved it. Vista had a bad reputation, but Windows 7 got a good reputation.

Lately, I see Honeycomb being maligned in the press. Jason Perlow called it "half-baked" and "a piece of junk". John Paczkowki says the Motorola Xoom (the first tablet to run Honeycomb) is "at best a dud, at worst a bomb". Is that perception or reality?

Continue reading: Perception vs. reality >

I use Honeycomb on the Xoom every day. In my opinion, Honeycomb is great, but the Xoom not so much. The Xoom is too heavy, too expensive, and too unfinished. When people ask me what to buy I tell them to check out the alternatives from others like Acer, Asus, LG, Samsung, and Sony. Unfortunately the taint of problems with the first Honeycomb tablet have rubbed off on the operating system itself.

Honeycomb has a few rough edges but it also has a lot to love. Stacked widgets let you flip through documents and movies like a Rolodex. Action bars make commands that were previously hidden deep in the menus visible for instant selection. Fragments let developers create reusable components that can be laid out differently in landscape and portrait modes. Notifications are bigger and richer than ever. The mail and calendar clients are just as good or better than anything you'll find on the iPad. And the browser is excellent, with multiple tabs and very fast rendering without the checkboard fill-in pattern you see on other devices.

Compatibility with older applications is a work in progress. Unfortunately in Google's Market application there's no way to filter out apps that have and haven't been tested on the extra large screen. I have managed to lock up my Xoom three or four times, requiring me to hold the power and volume buttons to reboot it, probably due to device driver bugs. And while this won't affect regular users, the emulator used by developers is dog slow because of all the 3d graphics needed by the Honeycomb UI.

The way forward for Google and Android is clear. Don't bother defending Honeycomb - just get the next version ("IceCream") out the door.

IceCream to the rescue

What Windows 7 did for Vista, IceCream will do for Honeycomb. IceCream will basically be Honeycomb with a few focused, incremental enhancements. It will run on the same hardware as Honeycomb, plus it will be portable to phones. It will feel more polished because, well, more time was spent polishing it.

Google withheld the source code to Honeycomb because it wasn't ready for prime time. IceCream will be open. That means more ports, more custom ROMS, and better bug reports, bug fixes, and other contributions.

I predict that reviewers that panned Honeycomb will love IceCream. Eventually the memory of Honeycomb, like Vista, will fade into history.

Topics: Operating Systems, Microsoft, Software, Windows

Ed Burnette

About Ed Burnette

Ed Burnette is a software industry veteran with more than 25 years of experience as a programmer, author, and speaker. He has written numerous technical articles and books, most recently "Hello, Android: Introducing Google's Mobile Development Platform" from the Pragmatic Programmers.

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225 comments
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  • RE: Is Honeycomb Android's Vista?

    Yes and this is Google's downfall similar to Microsoft's downfall with Vista... In another 5 years, we would have Google search becoming ir-relevant and MS's OS becoming ir-relevant
    browser.
    • Orly?

      @browser. Downfall implies they are out for the count and not coming back. Might want to rephrase your words because MS and Google aren't going anywhere. And you can't even begin to think that a tablet only OS from Google will bring the mighty empire crumbling to the ground.
      Bates_
      • RE: Is Honeycomb Android's Vista?

        @Bates_

        I think he was being sarcastic. At least I gave him the benefit of the doubt. I don't know many who bash Google and MS in one post seriously.
        LiquidLearner
      • RE: Is Honeycomb Android's Vista?

        @Bates_ Well I did miss the [/Sarcasm] tag... I am kinda annoyed how the tech press would throw down a product with one bad release! Well flush the entire company down the toilet and be done with it.
        browser.
      • Honeycomb = Vista, ChokemOS = Kin

        All Goog knows is copying everything MSFT does including their flops.
        LBiege
      • RE: Is Honeycomb Android's Vista?

        @Bates_ This is just Microsoft's and Apple's FUD machines at work. Nothing to see here, really.
        BIGELLOW
      • The Apple trolls return...

        @Bates_

        I bet you "browser." is an Apple evangelist, which is why he posted that. Of course, there's not only Ice Cream to worry about for the resurrection of Google after Honeycomb but also Chrome OS:

        * Instant web, something newbies will love
        * Fast boot, something newbies will love
        * Apps not only glorified bookmarks but some of them also packaged into CRX files and install locally, something newbies will love knowing that some apps will work without an Internet connection
        * Compatible with anything that can run on the Web, including some popular Web sites and apps, something newbies will love
        * Applications loading quickly and design being all about speed, something newbies will love
        * Software not costing anything and ad support high, making for cheaper devices which newbies will love

        Before you go and prejudice an OS, think about what the OS is really intended to do.
        Kenny Strawn
      • RE: Is Honeycomb Android's Vista?

        @Bates_ yeah I think I really agree on you bates but one thing that I did not understand is that what is honeycomb really for?
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      • RE: Is Honeycomb Android's Vista?

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        You remember Vista don?t you? Microsoft?s much maligned operating system that followed Windows XP? I?m sure many of you are trying to forget it, so apologies for the reminder. The reason I bring it up is that there are many parallels between Vista and Android Honeycomb. Google could have another Vista on its hands, and it would do well to learn from Microsoft?s ordeal.
        Amanda123456
      • RE: Is Honeycomb Android's Vista?

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        You remember Vista don?t you? Microsoft?s much maligned operating system that followed Windows XP? I?m sure many of you are trying to forget it, so apologies for the reminder. The reason I bring it up is that there are many parallels between Vista and Android Honeycomb. Google could have another Vista on its hands, and it would do well to learn from Microsoft?s ordeal.
        Amanda123456
      • RE: Is Honeycomb Android's Vista?

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      • RE: Is Honeycomb Android's Vista?

        <a href="http://www.vidaddict.com">funny videos</a>
        Google always finds a way to innovate and make the best out of project failures. I agree, Google isn't going anywhere. Microsoft I don't know though.
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      • RE: Is Honeycomb Android's Vista?

        @Bates_
        thanks for this. I've been looking for this everywhere! I am so glad that i was able to visit this page today. So it's the last day huh? good thing I got here today. Will definitely share this with my friends! Thanks again!
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      • RE: Is Honeycomb Android's Vista?

        @Bates_
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      • RE: Is Honeycomb Android's Vista?

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      • RE: Is Honeycomb Android's Vista?

        Anybody else confused if he's being serious or sarcastic? I've read it a few times and I can't tell if he's genuinely hating Google or not.

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    • RE: Is Honeycomb Android's Vista?

      @browser.

      MS Made huge promises about Vista Ultimate - promises about all the specials and extras that would only be available to VU users. MS never kept its word and those extras and specials were never delivered. That alone makes Vista very different to Android. Google made no such promises and has not acted dishonestly and deceitfully.
      Wakemewhentrollsgone
      • True to a point

        @ptorning

        I run Vista Ultimate at home. There really weren't many extras, but one extra I love is the animated wallpaper. I have a lovely waterfall that really is soothing.

        That may not sound like much (and it really isn't) but it's a pleasant touch none the less, and I really like it. :)

        The true value of ultimate was *NOT* the extras, which even if they had been delivered would have still have been icing. The real value was the fact Ultimate was Business+Home Premium.

        I think MS made a mistake when they segregated features--a mistake that was corrected in Win 7. Ultimate *is* a nice version of Vista, it's got everything both the lesser versions have.

        Bash Ultimate for not delivering promised extras, but don't forget it *is* the ultimate Vista because of the combination of features.
        wolf_z
      • RE: Is Honeycomb Android's Vista?

        @ptorning probably not considering honeycomb is the first actual <a href="http://www.android-tablet.org">Tablet PC Android</a> OS , it's more like going from 98 to XP
        Jeffrey1980