Android is the most popular mobile operating system on the planet today with Apple's iOS a distant second. And on the smartphone platform, Android's developers have very successfully built the operating system that both performs well and makes good use of the screen. However, on the tablet form factor, the Android operating system is relatively weaker. From a performance perspective, tablets usually have comparable hardware to a smartphone and so running performance is no issue here. Tablets often have similar resolution displays to smartphones but the software is set up to work better on a larger screen with a lower DPI (dots per inch) user interface resolution. This means that whilst many applications available from the Google Play Store will typically work on the tablet platform, unfortunately, their interface is compromised: the developer did not design the application to be able to scale properly to fit the larger screen real estate. For these applications, there is often a large area of the screen that is underutilised and unfortunately, it is not just third party developers that underuse the available space – several Google applications leave big areas of the screen and interface effectively useless.
One application that makes better use of the larger screens is the Google Chrome Browser. The browser scales to fit the full width of the screen and, importantly, renders web pages to also fit the screen. Tablets, especially the larger models, are arguably a perfect device for web browsing as one can see a lot more on the screen and the Chrome development team have worked hard to keep their browser up to date. To this end, the Development version of the Chrome Browser, which is available to download on the Google Play Store, has been updated to support multi-window mode when running in the tablet user interface mode. The Dev version of the Chrome Browser is used by Google to pre-launch new versions of the Chrome browser complete with experimental features to obtain feedback from users – what works, what does not and how it may be improved.
The next version of Android, currently known as "Android N," will include a multi-window mode. This should improve the tablet's user interface and hence how productive these devices will be. The new version of the Dev Chrome Browser supports the new way of multiple-instance multitasking and supports at least two Chrome Browser windows running side by side. It is still a Dev release of the browser and Google's development team are likely to refine and improve the code before it is upgraded into a new version, but it's exciting to see how various applications are being prepared for the next release of Android.