24
Sep
2013-09-24 14_18_35-Ixonos Multi-Window for Android - YouTube

Mobile devices are designed primarily as a modal experience. You use one app at a time, but can switch between them quickly. Multi-window interfaces and floating apps have been implemented a few times as an alternative, but most of these solutions are a bit clunky. Ixonos has released a new video demo of its multi-window technology, and it looks much better. If only we knew where to get it.

Windows can be resized dynamically by dragging the corner, just like a desktop. Apps can also be snapped into a grid that can be re-proportioned as needed. Additionally, each one of the tiled apps is running live and the UI looks very responsive. There's no telling what this is doing to battery life, but it could be hugely useful on a tablet. It's not something you can just download, though. Ixonos works with OEMs to license its technology, but where?

We reached out to Ixonos and asked about its OEM partners. The response was a little cryptic, making reference to tier one OEMs that it cannot name. Ixonos implies the technology has been used in a number of Android releases. Samsung has long been shipping multi-window tech with its devices, but it doesn't look exactly like the Ixonos demo. Perhaps the underlying technology has been licensed to a few different OEMs for use in floating apps. Maybe we're talking about hardware-level interactions with a partner like MediaTek. The exact implementation shown in the video doesn't seem to exist in the wild, but maybe someday. Imagine how cool it would be to have this in your favorite ROM. 

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • ralphwiggum1

    The Circle of Life. Back to whence we started. Windows are a new must-have feature from yester-century.

    • Harsha

      Android tablets really need the multi window feature to use the screen space more productively.

    • ins0mn1a

      yes, but you have it on a device that is always on, always connected, light enough to always carry, dead simple to manage and yet has an open OS capable of incorporating cutting edge advances. i would say we have advanced pretty far from where we started.

      • Elvin

        LAME!

        even PDA's had multitasking, windows mobile, symbian and more recently webOS, blackberry tablet (dat multitasking), etc

        people/devs/oem's keep inventing lame excuses, for their lack of imagination. what operating systems had since their inception (they were designed around multitasking), we can't have in 2013. stop staying on their sides.

        i bet even ms dos could multitask better in 1980.

        • Bakaouji

          ...

        • jaduncan

          I bet even 5 year old children could troll better in 1980.

  • Gerjannn

    This is really cool, now a lot of apps still don't look that good on 10" devices, this will definitely change it :) Now I'm laughing harder at iPhone apps on iPad that really look like a mess.

    • mobilemann

      this is pretty much a carbon copy of Quasar for iOS 5. And it's a great style of multi tasking that works quite well.

  • Harsha

    This is awesome. We need this in our tablets ASAP!

    By the way, is it so that Google has given a statement that they we not incorporate multi window feature in Android as default? Because it's much of a hacking way to enable it?

    • ltredbeard

      What?

      • Harsha

        Oh nothing.. Just read somewhere that Google will never bring multi window feature and we need to rely on devs or companies like ixonos.. Not able to find the article link.

    • mobilemann

      i had this in iOS 5, lol.

  • cabbiebot

    Struggling to remember the multi-window code that was discussed as possibly going into CM...can't remember the name.

    • Ivan Myring

      Cornerstone

      • cabbiebot

        That's it, thanks!

  • NickAVV

    I didn't like that while you're resizing a window you just see an outline of the new size until letting go. On real desktop environments the content of the window is resizing live. If they were able to fix that it would be (even more) amazing.

    • Darren Henderson

      On "real" desktops, it's a relatively new feature too, evidenced by how poorly this redraw performs on an approximately 6 year old graphic cards in my work desktop.

      • NickAVV

        Maybe I'm spoiled by Mac OS, but I can't remember a time when this wasn't the case (in OS X anyway, in OS 9 and below it definitely behaved as in the video, but that was over 10 years ago)

        • Kieron Quinn

          (I think) any Windows below XP doesn't. Though I've never used 2000 or ME, so I don't know. 98 didn't though

          • NickAVV

            Thanks for the memory. XP is about as old as OS X, so it seems that around that time on desktops is when this feature became standard. And the desktop computers of that era definitely had less horsepower than the mobile devices of this era.

          • Roh_Mish

            Windows 98 did in explorer. I dont know on other programs.

        • Michael Pahl

          It relies heavily on GPU VRAM if I am not mistaken...

          Either way devs will have to balance the content resizing live and GPU load/battery life.

        • qu4ttro

          Thats because you're like 12...

          • NickAVV

            I'm 21 and my first computer ran Mac OS 7, but thanks for adding that intelligent quip.

    • Frettfreak

      what a pointless waste of ram and CPU. it really bothers you that much that you cant see the contents of the window that you are resizing? Seems pretty pointless IMO.

      • NickAVV

        You're definitely being too defensive about this. I said in my original comment that I already think what they have is amazing. It isn't a pointless waste of resources, and modern devices definitely have a lot to spare if it's written correctly. Of course the main usability issue for me that it solves is that the tiny grey dotted outline of the window's resize position is hard to see, making it hard to tell that you're performing a resize. A more resource-effective solution to that problem would be to simply draw solid or semi-transparent white over the area that the window will be resized to.

        • Frettfreak

          dont read tone on the internet... not defensive at all. Actually couldnt care less. It just seemed odd that someone would be upset over a seemingly pointless feature.. HOWEVER, you make a good point. I just dont have that issue.

          • NickAVV

            You should take your own advice, you read tone from my original comment that I was upset, which I wasn't.

      • Lost

        It is not pointless:
        1) often you resize (increase size of window) to be able to see additional information
        2) since you do not see it in 1st place, you do not know how far you need to resize, and yet you want to resize as little as possible
        3) therefore, if OS actually shows you content while you are resizing, you can do that much faster

        It is way more useful (= less pointless) than most of transition animations (like those on iOS 7 , and many Androids)

    • Matthew Fry

      When it's running tiled it resizes dynamically. Perhaps the modeless windows are not finished yet or there's some rendering issues with the launcher...

      edit: Ah. I was mistaken. They're sliding the windows around not resizing.

  • ari_free

    But what Samsung is doing is not just multi-window but also drag and drop between windows.

    • Roh_Mish

      The samsung multiwindow on note 3 has direct interactions between compatible apps like direct drag and drop and control etc. It is just it only supports upto 2 appps at a time

  • curiousfox

    Android kit kat??

  • Frettfreak

    I can MAYBE see this being useful on a tablet, but i have used Samsungs multi window on a phone in the past, and just REALLY find absolutely NO use for something like this. Its pretty easy on my One to switch between open apps too. I dunno... i just dont really see much usefulness except in very certain situations for me

    • ari_free

      The big use case is chatting with 2 people at once

      • Justin Swanson

        or chatting + anything else (reading, browsing, gaming)

        I also see this being a necessary feature for productivity reasons.

  • mlj11

    Cool. This would greatly enhance Android tablets' usefulness as productivity-focused machines. I think more fluidity would be nice though; can't wait to see this running on next gen hardware.

    Oh, and I'd gladly wager that Samsung's one of the licensees. This article also makes me wonder how much of each OEM's software is actually written in-house, and how much is "outsourced" to contractors.

    • liam1

      That IS running on nextgen hardware. How many android devices are running cortex A15s now?

  • Matthew Fry

    So.... it's running on a Nexus 10...

    I have a Nexus 10. Bake it into a ROM and I'll pay you dollars.

    • Kcls

      Whoa like, real dollars? Sounds enticing.

      • Matthew Fry

        0 < x < 25

        • jordanjay29

          That's in pennies, right?

  • Zaatour36

    Very nice demo, I like the multi-window on the Note, and hope it can be downloaded and used for any Android device.

  • Matthew Fry

    I've always wanted to Skype, play Angry Birds, browse the Internet, and watch Youtube simultaneously without having to pick my ass up off the bed and sit at the computer.

    Soon, my dream will be a reality ;-)

  • The_Chlero

    This is the thing that I dont like about developers in the mobile industry. They are trying so hard to turn the mobile OS in what the desktop OS were many years ago.

    Why we need "windows" when we have a multitask button, why we need game pads for mobile, why we need keyboards for mobiles, instead we better have a nice laptop for the things that require heavy tasking and let our mobile devices for what are they designed for: for light entertainment.

    • Liam Higgins

      it's always good to have options.

    • rstat1

      Gamepads are required because touch controls suck for the majority of games that aren't simple things like Angry Birds or solitaire.

      Though I agree with the rest of your comment.

      • The_Chlero

        That's the point of devices like Nintendo DS or PSP. The smartphones turned into PSP or Gameboy. If I want to play serious games or game that require control-precision gameplay, I grab my portable GAMING device called Nintendo DS or PSP or if I want more serious gaming, grab a game console.

        Even recent Android-based portable gaming devices like the one made by Nokia is a better option if your interested in play Android game in a portable GAMING device. Or even OUYA for home gaming.

        Mobile games are designed for light-very casual touch gaming, with easy controls and easy levels. Racing games, RPG games or other more serious gaming on a mobile phone I dont see the point, better grab one of those gaming devices like I said.

        Mobile games of smartphones are designed to be timekiller not at complete gaming experience.

        • Justin Swanson

          Mobile games will likely replace portable gaming devices. If Sony and Nintendo don't see that their blind.

          I place light games on my GNex and slightly heaver games on my N7. There have been old SNES/PS1 ports that have wacky controls because they didn't redesign the game with touch in mind. Other games play pretty well, but most of them don't have the depth of a good PSP/DS game. We're looking for that depth in mobile.

          You may not see the point, but others don't want to carry a DS or PSP in addition to their phone/tablet. Both of which are essentially multifunction devices. If I feel like reading, i can pull out my N7. If I feel like playing a game, I can pull out my N7. If I feel like watching a movie, I can pull out my N7. I don't have carry a bag 'o electronics to satisfy my every need. I only need a single (or maybe 2) devices.

          • The_Chlero

            Well, like someone else said: All its about choice, and my choice is that a smartphone/tablet is not a heavy productivity/gaming device.

            Unless you are 12 years old or less, you dont need to be heavy-gaming/producing in your way to your home/work. Those thing are done in the work/home.

            Sure, sometimes you want a timekiller when wating for the girlfriend, bus, carwash, etc. For those there are games like AB, Temple Run, Where's My X?, etc.

            Neither I want to star working on my project presentation while I wait for my girlfriend to finish dressing.

            At the end is all about choices and I hope that these heavy consuming memory features dont come standard but like a downloadable app.

          • http://my.opera.com/rafaelluik Rafael Luik

            Yeah, principally because you don't have to waste money on one more gadget! @The_Chlero:disqus @rstat1:disqus

        • rstat1

          I find it stupid that should have to carry around ANOTHER device if I want to play a decent game somewhere else that isn't at home, when my smartphone is more than capable, minus the sucky control scheme.

    • Justin Swanson

      You need multi window for productivity... Think about working on one document but needing to reference or resource Multiple

      • The_Chlero

        indeed, if I want productivity, I grab my laptop with my optical mouse and I edit my Excel sheet or my autocad plot. Really, I dont see the point trying to be "productive" with a entertainment-oriented device. I really dont see myself working my sheets and reports for my job in a tablet even less on a smartphone

        • Justin Swanson

          Not yet, you don't.

          I'd rather just have 1 device for *most* of my things than having a pure entertainment device, a pure production device, a pure gaming device, etc. If I am someone who uses photoshop, maybe a need a dedicated device for that or other special circumstances, but the idea is that tablets will replace laptops, as laptops mostly replaced desktops. I don't really see them ever going away, unless the Asus Trio/Samsung Q-like devices catch on. I dock it, I get a full production device. I pull it off the dock, I've got entertainment.

          I imagine that there will be a time when your smartphone will be capable of providing the performance that we're accustom to on desktops. The only difficult thing then will be is projecting it onto a bigger screen (like Ubuntu Edge)

        • Andy_in_Indy

          My phone IS my laptop (Motorola Lapdock compatible). So I want this, as do the other people who use media docks & a monitor or phones with large screens or tablets with keyboards. Even the ability to Chromecast from the windowed app while reviewing a different window makes this a very useful feature.

          To answer your assumption directly, this completes the change from a entertainment oriented device to a productivity device.

    • The_Chlero

      Just like I tought, I was downvoted. Some truth hurts

    • BozzyB

      The "windows" on the desktop is not useful and old fashioned. But the "screens" which change gapless their size are they right way. You can have your chat in one corner and pdf and browser on the rest of the screen. No need to switch to get new infos. With the multitasking button you have to switch always from one to another.

      • The_Chlero

        I can justify this ONLY y big screen tablets, 10" and above. Otherwise it has no sense since switching apps is just takes half a second or maybe less. Besides your have the notification bar, where you can see the messages, just slide down from top to botton and you have all the expanded notifications showing you what happens. What to answer? just tap and reply and switch back to your previous app. easy

        • Justin Swanson

          That only works on some ROMs and some modified messaging apps. It doesn't work on Google Hangouts or most of the other primary messaging apps I'm aware of.

    • John Washington

      Mobile devices were not designed for light entertainment. They were initially productivity devices. The first I owned, ppc6601, was only offered on sprint business accounts.

  • WhyWai

    recently bought Xperia Tablet Z. the small app window is a blast! hope they will allow multiple small apps running at the same time in future...

    • Roh_Mish

      Sony small apps works smoothly and the ability to get it from playstore is awesome. Now just that few devs work on making usefull smallapps. Meanwile on my nexus 4 i have nothing like that.

  • Hien Nguyen

    Finally I can youtube while browsing !

  • http://visionaforethought.wordpress.com/ Oflife

    Sorry, this is NOT good. The whole reason that iOS, Android etc are so good is that they simplify the use of devices that until then, we spend a huge proportion of our time managing. Moving windows around, trying to find content etc. This is a step BACKWARDS not forwards! What's the point of making Android like Windows? May as well buy an older generation Windows device! This shows loss of imagination and creativity by Mountain View by allowing this sort of thing to happen. We need to make 'windows' obsolete!

    • SmooK_LV

      Trust me mate, this is a step forward for productivity.

  • Sykobee

    The use case that makes most sense is the tiling, rather than the windowing. The windowing does appear to have some issues with the tiny resize handle as well. I wouldn't be surprised if they licensed out subsets of the full capability, hence the tiling ability in some phones/tablets.

  • Harindu Ishan

    This would be an awesome light weight OS for netbooks.. if some one can port to x86.

  • hyperbolic

    This is the best feature I'v heard regarding Android since ICS...

  • Cary

    Doesn't windows 8/RT support multi-window on tablets, or at least dual-window?

  • Jaime

    Actually it looks A LOT like what Samsung has on it's Note 10.1
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlwX8mX9QhY&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    skip to 1:20

  • Travis Montgomery

    Know any Roms can do similar to this that can support any apps while i can play game while i watch movie at same time while Samsung TW dont support all apps. I have samsung S3 but already rooted it and did tried some roms but couldnt find that can support any apps. any suggestion?

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