Think technology is all serious, unemotional science? No more. It’s really touching.
Touch is the input that is used more and more, in computers, communications tools, gadgets and software.
Apple helped kick off the touch revolution with the iPhone. That’s when the touch interface and small apps grabbed a big chunk of market.
Google followed suit with Android. Smart phones like the Motorola Droid have been well received, and a host of small app writers have embraced that platform.
Tablet PCs have been around for a while, but the coming of the iPad demonstrated that a tablet PC that is fast enough and does real work will be accepted. If it also does real play, it will be accepted with enthusiasm bordering on lust.
iPad and iPhone have a similar hardware look, but some obvious differences. The similarity is a plus for iPhone users in that their iPad learning curve is as flat as an anorexic. The underlying software lets the same or similar apps run on both. If the source code is similar, the source (vendor) is identical: Apple’s App Store.
Android users, who are becoming more and more numerous as we speak, get their smart phone and tablet apps at the Android Marketplace. At least, that’s the vendor of choice for the majority of choosers. (Yes, Chooser sounds like an archaic Apple Macintosh OS term, but OSX has driven it from our minds, much as System and Finder used to drive us from our minds.)
I have had a tablet or two—not only the medicinal kind, but also the compact computer kind. I have always liked the concept, even though the first two or three I owned were disappointing. I still have one nifty little Compaq tablet, and an IBM ThinkPad I can write on, and a Scribe that looks almost like a legal pad.
That doesn’t mean I won’t want an Android-based tablet, such as the Archos 10. By the time I am ready to get one, there will be a few dozen other Android tablets out there, and scads more apps than the current plentiful crop.
Also I have four or five graphics tablets, or input devices I can write and sign and draw on—Wacom, Graphire, LaPazz, etc.
The operating systems, user interface and programming frameworks employed in these touchy-feely products have attracted app makers as well as users. The apps themselves have benefitted from the high interactivity made possible by the sensitivity of the screens, their high resolution for visual satisfaction, and the high performance of multicore processing. What’s not to like? Where are the trade-offs? These devices are fun, but they are not toys.
Android provides platforms with multiple interfaces. Any hulking, tower-form-factor desktop of 2000 or before, costing twice or thrice what the Android device costs, would have blue-screened at an attempt to multi-task to such a degree. Now you can have a camera grabbing full motion video while the 3D accelerometer tracks the device that is tracking the action.
Touch gets a lot of the attention, but it is just one aspect of the Apple iOS and Android platforms. What’s more, these are integral features of the operating systems.
The Apple iOS SDK (software design kit) gives the Cocoa-Touch framework and the operating system to developers. It includes Model-View Controller (MVC) architecture. Objective-C is the native programming language, which is C, but not much like C++ (the last programming language I learned).
Android’s framework runs on Linux and JVM, the Dalvik Java virtual machine. Apache is in there somewhere—that’s the license through which the Dalvik source code is licensed. If a developer uses the General Public License (GPL) the changes have to be shared publicly. The Apache license carries no such requirement, so developers can retain original work product rather than handing it over to competitors.
Dalvik is optimized for mobile device use. It has a register-based approach, rather than a stack-based one.
It would take several columns to plumb the intricacies of these platforms. I could say I have just touched on them, but that would be a terrible pun. Not that that would stop me.
Are you touchy? How do you feel about touch? What touch-based interface gear do you use?