The Promise of Honeycomb

Wow….  So, as I noted in my last post, I was watching the CES presentation of Android Honeycomb last night and ultimately I was blown away.

During the presentation, I felt like Honeycomb had some nice improvements over the current version of Froyo/Gingerbread, but nothing really mind bending.  It wasn’t until I went back to using my laptop that I realized the potential that I see from the concepts shown in Honeycomb for computing and its integration with my life and work.

Ultimately, I think what really impressed me was the interface to my data and the increases in efficiency the new interface will give me in my ability to see it and manipulate it.  I’ve already experienced this change with how I currently use my phone (a Nexus One with stock Android 2.2) in comparison to how limited the Windows interface is with the only access being a keyboard and a mouse.  From the improvements I saw during the presentation, I can see how these changes can be applied everywhere on all my computing devices.  Google is moving leaps and bounds faster than Microsoft.

The way I’m looking at it, my “data” is like a sculpture.  Throughout the day, I manipulate it to see various aspects of it, combining the pieces in various ways to use it to get work done.  My calendar here, an address there, a video here, some writing there, a picture there.  Ultimately, my data could all be accessed as if it was in one place, and it was all one thing, moldable to be able to create new things. My data today is like a bunch of blobs here and there, to the point I don’t even know where all the blobs are.  And it takes a lot of work to be able to combine it together to make what I need, whether it’s a document, or getting directions to a job I have to go to.  Put in another way, using a keyboard and a mouse to manipulate my data is like sculpting a pile of clay with a butter knife holding it in my fist; very awkward.

In the meantime, on my phone, I’m able to use my fingers to precisely and quickly do exactly what I want, and all my data is starting to come together as objects that know what each other are and are able to morph into other objects without my even telling them what to do.  Instead of having to find a program then find and open a document in the program; Widgets show my data right in front of me on the screen, and if I need more detail, I just touch the widget.

The promise of Android Honeycomb as I see it is that we’ll be able to use this same interface directly on our desktops.  Yes, there are already pieces of the functionality in Android in our desktops today – I could set up multiple desktops years ago in Windows or Mac OS, but the tools were just so clunky to me I’ve never bothered to try.  Touchscreens and widgets make my data sooo much more directly accessible that these concepts actually make sense, and widgets allow so much flexibility in presenting and using my data.

Without going into too much detail, I’m imagining a desk with a touchscreen built into the top of it, and maybe a second vertical touchscreen at the back of the desk.  And now I can drag each “desktop” into view, just like on my phone, maybe moving one up to the vertical screen, maybe turning on a keyboard on the desktop.  Who needs a physical keyboard anymore? I like the keyboard on my Nexus One just fine, which I wasn’t sure of when I bought it.  And if my desktop screen is big enough, I could display multiple “desktops” at once, and move them around as I need them like a picture puzzle, sharing data between them for the various widgets.

And as more and more of my data moves to the cloud, I don’t have to worry about what is stored where anymore.

I realize that I’m not putting forth anything new here, that this is all the vision that has been growing since time immemorial.  But I was so struck with the leap we are about to take I just had to write about it to release my excitement.  All I know is I can’t wait to see what’s coming!

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