As smartphones advance and become more complex (well, as Android becomes more complex), they begin to borrow a few features from their older cousins, the desktop PC. While some features were not convenient or workable on the small screen size of a phone, tablets have expanded our definition of what PC things a non-PC can do. Ironically as more devices are invented that move away from PCs, more PC features are copied to those exact devices.
That’s where Wind River comes in. Those who follow Silicon Valley will probably recognize the name of the famous Intel subsidiary. They work on quite a few projects, some of which are focused on Android. The good folks at Wind River are taking aim at some of the annoyances that have plagued Android since the start while simultaneously adding new features.
Unfortunately, these goodies are for developers only. So, if you’re not making your own version of Android, Wind River’s products aren’t for you. The good news is that some of the stuff you’ll see here might appear on the next couple Android tablets. Let’s take a look at what Wind River has to offer.
What Do They Make?
For a company with so many Android ventures, Wind River has a surprisingly eclectic history of products. They’ve done everything from medical technology to Linux distros to, well, Android.
The Android products aren’t apps so much as nifty programming frameworks. These days with Sense and TouchWiz and the Kindle Fire it seems like everybody makes their own version of Android.
That’s what Wind River’s products are for- helping developers make a better form of Android. With some Wind River programming, your ordinary Honeycomb or Ice Cream Sandwich becomes a little easier to use (and a lot cooler).
What Do The Frameworks Do?
Wind River sells Android frameworks that basically improve the basic Android experience. Probably the best one we found was a product claiming to enhance the user interface of an Android device.
Let’s face it- Android doesn’t have the best UI (at least when compared to a certain other product). It could always use improving. Wind River starts with a pretty basic thing- cutting the necessary boot time in half.
That’s the graph from their site which claims to dramatically reduce the time necessary to boot up. After using countless different ROMs which all take forever to boot, we can attest that this is a godsend.
But that’s not it. The really cool improvement is the addition of real PC-type Windows. Apps no longer run in full screen all the time, but rather occupy windows which can overlap, shrink, be resized or dragged around (see picture below).
Computers have been able to do this since the original Macintosh, so it only makes sense that the same capability should come to Android. Obviously it would work better on tablets than on phones, but I could still see some use for always having a music player in a window on screen.
From a competitive perspective, Windows 8 will launch for tablets with the ability to run multiple apps at the same time, on the same screen. Android would do well to beat Microsoft to the punch.
Wind River’s products seem pretty good. They also offer a streaming media center, but that’s nothing that can’t be done with AirTwist. That particular functionality has been commercially available for a long rime already.
Still, apps in windows look especially neat. I love the idea of being able to quickly switch between apps like I can do with windows on my PC. Granted, it would probably drive app developers insane in coding. How do you program for a resizable window?
It’s unknown if any of these features will be implemented in the future. I did some searching and couldn’t find any news about Wind River being licensed, but hopefully that will change. In the meantime, keep an eye out for their products. When they arrive, it will certainly make things interesting.