Silverlight and Multi Touch Tablets
If you follow gadget or tech sites, you probably have seen some buzz around Tablet PCs in the last couple of days. Yesterday Mike Arrington from TechCrunch posted a request to the community to help build a low-cost web tablet device with TechCrunch.
The goals of the project are simple:
low cost...about $200.00 (runs Linux)
Runs Firefox in kiosk/ATM mode. Basically, it by passes the OS and turns on directly into Firefox
i-Phone like input; touch screen
Just as the story I just mentioned was getting buzz, there were rumors posted on Gizmodo that there might be a MacBook Touch coming out in October. Obviously, these are just rumors so there are little details...but that story is real interesting as well as the timing of the story especially the day after the TechCrunch story got posted and got HUGE attention/buzz.
In the last couple of days we have a lot of buzz about two tablet products. Table PCs are nothing new; in fact, I used one back in 2003. Furthermore, Dell offers a Tablet PC as well. However, back in 2003 the multi-touch technology simply was not there (had to use a stupid stylus). The Tablet PCs were slow, handwriting recognition was poor and it loaded XP. Furthermore, the presentation technology was nonexistent. Basically, you were running an OS with a stylus on a big screen in a clunky machine. The new Dell product is basically a laptop that has a touch screen LCD panel that can rotate at a greater angle. Tablet technology up to this point has not succeeded in the mainstream. However, I think these two upcoming products can succeed. Think of it as Tablet 2.0 technology or even a Tablet relaunch :)
Apple has these things in their corner:
they are the gold standard in multi-touch & input technology
they proved they can master sleek, innovative, thin design
the current technology with longer battery life, solid state drives, improved graphics & presentation work
I think these sleek, thin web tablets are going to be the next hot thing in the next 6 months. How does this fit in with Silverlight? If you read the articles, you are probably asking yourself where you missed the Silverlight references. Both of these products obviously are not going to be formally supporting Silverlight in their plans. However, this is where as a .NET developer or company you can get a piece of the pie. Silverlight is supported on a MAC/Safari. So once the MacBook Touch launches, Silverlight will just work. The TechCrunch Tablet is a little harder because it runs on Linux. Hopefully the Moonlight project can get going again and give better support for Linux or maybe Microsoft will shock us and release a Linux plug-in. However, since the TechCrunch web tablet was just announced yesterday, I would be shocked if anything was ready in the next 6-8 months. October with the MacBook Touch (if the rumors are true) will be around the corner much faster.
Applications on the iPhone have a fluid user experience. What do I mean by that? The user has little interaction with the keyboard. It is all about scrolling, sliding, flipping, dragging while keeping things SIMPLE. Effective applications for these tablets lacking a keyboard will have to do just that and mimic the user experience from the iPhone or Microsoft Surface. Silverlight will allow you to do just that. By designing applications in Silverlight, it will allow you to bring the user experience to life. Silverlight allows you to present the layout of your application spatially and through animations/effects you can bring real time interactivity to the user. Do you think a user of an iPhone who is used to the iPhone interface would want to load an application from 2 years ago that is a step back? Of course not. This is where Silverlight compiled code rocks because it is ultra responsive and nothing out on the web can compete with it.
Silverlight is a web technology and it is distributed through a plug-in. This is a perfect way for Silverlight applications to sneak onto the tablets and get some of the attention of the user base. This is why I am such a big advocate of Silverlight technology; because of how well it can complement the user experience in this example and others. You know users will demand high quality and responsive interfaces (the iPhone generation is spoiled) and Silverlight is one way to spoil them even more. Silverlight: learn it, use it and abuse it. Hopefully, this article gave everyone a glimpse into the future on why it is a good idea to invest time in learning Silverlight. It would be even better if the article gave you some ideas of applications/tools to write for the upcoming web tablets!