Saturday 24 April 2010

How Android beats Windows 7 laptops

Lately, many have started to use their phone for tasks, for which they previously used a PC - including updating online spreadsheets etc. The PC features much better input and output devices (keyboard, mouse, screen), so why use the phone for these tasks? Here is a list of why it makes sense to use an typical Android phone instead of a Windows 7 laptop for many tasks:

* The laptop does not have built-in GPS, so location information cannot be used to assist tasks by searching locally, looking up addresses, providing context-dependent functionality etc.

* The laptop does not have a log over what has been done lately while away from the PC. So it does not know who the user has been talking to, where the user has been driving, which destinations/shops the user has looked up etc.

* The laptop cannot easily exchange information via SMS or MMS, so in order to quickly exchange a link to someone that you have just been talking to, things become a lot more complicated than if you just grab your android phone.

* The phone is always turned on and online. This means that some tasks are usually done on the phone, and even if the laptop should be online, it is easier to keep with the usual way of doing things.

* Both devices have reflective screens, but it is much easier to avoid reflections on the phone, because the laptop is more restrictive on work positions.

* It is much easier to take a picture of a piece of paper using the phone than a laptop's built-in webcam, besides the fact that the webcam usually does not have an adequate resolution. This means that some information simply starts being created on the phone, not on the PC.

* Windows does not have a market place that makes it easy to find productivity enhancing apps - and installing software on Windows is much more tedious, too.

* Windows does not sandbox applications. If you install the whiteboard photo & filtering & email app on Android, it cannot access your files, but it is not easy to prevent file access for a similar app for Windows.


LDS said...

Your post should title "How any smartphone is good at the tasks it was designed for while any laptop with any OS is not good at them because it wasn't designed for that". Did you ever tried a removal with a sport car?
About Windows missing a marketplace, well, ROTFL! Noone has issues finding Windows application, that new "store" craziness will hurt customers, not help them.
About sandboxing, I'd really like my mail application being unable to access file and send them as attachments...
Bad times for IT if people start to think that the new stupid ideas born into marketing minds looks great ideas.

FrancisR said...

Absolutly @LDS. Lars was talking about any of all smartphones available in the last four or five years.

Lars D said...

@LDS: I agree on most of your points, but smartphones and Windows are competitors because many tasks can be done on both kinds of devices. Also, Microsoft and hardware vendors are definitely working on solutions that make future Windows computers better at competing on the 8 points that I mentioned. For instance, more laptops get GPS and 3G built-in.

With regard to sandboxing: Many IT departments also lock down PCs and block application installation in order to avoid untrusted apps, and many advanced Windows users use VMware for sandboxing, because Windows cannot do it by itself.

The only sandboxing that you can do on a normal Windows computer is done to HTML/Javascript and Flash apps. Both javascript and Flash apps are very popular. Chrome adds an extra sandboxing layer to everything inside, which is great, but unfortunately, the only sandboxing-like feature in Windows is UAC, which is not made in a great way.

I know many people who cannot distinguish malware sites from providers of trustworthy software, and who find software using a simple google search without checking the correctness of the search result. An app market or software repository, like on Ubuntu Linux, Android or iPhone, would be a great help for these people, especially because it would also enable auto-upgrading of all apps in one step.

Lars D said...

@FrancisR: Many smartphones from the last 4-5 years did not have GPS, relevant app stores, sandboxing, or simply the capability to be the origin of enough significant data on which you would spend a workday.

LDS said...

There are already laptops with GPS receivers - but most users would make little use of them, maybe netbooks would benefit more - but Windows 7 is designed to support a wide range of sensors, and we will see them appear on laptops as well.
Most mobile companies offer simple USB sticks that connects to the mobile network - allowing what you ask for. Anyway may be cheaper to connect via Bluetooth to the phone than paying for another SIM and another contract if not available in you mobile ones. But once you're connected to the Internet there are a lot of cheaper ways to send SMS, MMS, or even make calls and videocalls.
Windows XP can run applications using an unprivileged users, but how many users ever used that functionalites? If you use multiple accounts and proper ACLs you can have "sandbox" in Windows as well - but most users who accepts sandbox on mobile phone wuould scream if the same approach was used in Windows - because it would get in the way they are used to work. On a laptop you're going to perform much complex activities than on a phone. Chrome is going to sandbox you in a "Googleworld" to ensure whatever you do is inside Google's reach, franckly I prefer to keep care of my data.
A Windows app store would be so huge (how many Windows applications exist?) to be pretty useless, unless the same censorship Apple employs is used - but I guess you would not see Delphi available there, maybe one day the license will say "only application originally written in C, C++ and .NET languages can access Windows API"....

Lars D said...

@LDS: I don't agree that most of the stuff that we do on Windows, is more complicated than the stuff we do on a phone - but it surely feels more complicated, and that's definitely one of my points. I guess that's also why the phones and iPads are taking over the tasks, that were previously done using a PC.

Windows has a huge potential for improvement, for catching up. Don't dismiss an app store for Windows just because you cannot see how it should work.

Lars D said...

@LDS: It is a fact, that many people have started to use their phones for activities, for which they previously used a PC, even when they are close to a PC that is available and online. It is obvious that the PC's mouse, keyboard and large screen are splendid for I/O, so there must be some serious reasons why the PC is not always the preferred choice. My blog post listed 8 reasons. Do you see other reasons, or do you disagree on the reasons?

LDS said...

I got my first "smartphone" more than seven years ago when I got a Treo 270, thereby there's little to surprise me today. Phones and pads are used in a different way than a PC. They are usually "consumer" devices - not "producer" ones. You may look at photos, but you don't correct them on such devices. You can look at a web site or your mail, but you don't add a blog post with some images or write a long mail with a couple of attachments there. You follow a GPS route there, but maybe you're not going to plan and book your whole travel there.
A PC operating system must be very careful in the way it could "sandbox" a user, because it is a much more versatile machine used in many different ways, while the degrees of freedom offered by more specialized devices are inherently limited, and the user expectations too. Not many PC users, even on netbooks, will accept the limitations smartphones have.
And I do not rule out a Windows store - but if it becomes the only way to get apps for my devices like Apple's, well I hope such a nightmare never becomes true.

Lars D said...

Except for software development, I use a larger percentage of my phone time on creating data, than on the PC. For instance, most of my notes are written on the phone. All my photos also originate on the phone, and I also update several spreadsheets each day using the phone. Google makes this easy, but there are also some other apps out there, that are not spreadsheet-like, which sync with online spreadsheets so that you can enter data in a very easy way on your phone and then analyze it on a large screen, later.

Lars D said...

An article about this development: