How Google can "double down" on Android tablets
There has been a lot of debating recently about Google's intents to "double down" on Android tablets, what exactly that means, and whether or not Android can become a true competitor to Apple's iPad. While I think there are multiple things that need to happen for Google's goals to be met, I think there is one thing they could do to give themselves a real push for uniqueness in the tablet market.
When I saw Droid-Life's article on a project dubbed Chameleon from Canadian UX firm Teknision, my first thought was "Wow, this is what a tablet should look like!" I was sure that this product would spread like wildfire through the blogosphere and hopeful that I'd one day see the project either released as an app in Google Play, or maybe Google themselves would even snatch up the firm/project and bake it directly into Android. Thing is, I haven't seen it mentioned on a single other blog as of yet.
When I say that I'm hopeful that Google themselves may eventually acquire the firm, I'm saying that because I believe that Chameleon's addition to Android would actually be valuable enough to warrant being a part of Android from the very core, rather than an optional add-on as it would be if it were purchasable in Google Play. While I think being available in Google Play would be infinitely better than being available via a few select manufacturer skins, this just seems like something that should be done at the foundation of the OS. Why? Because that's the only way I see it truly succeeding...
Re-inventing the homescreen
Chameleon's most impressive feature is it's "Contextual Dashboards".
While their main goal with these "Contextual Dashboards" is to adjust the displayed content according to the user's current environment (home, work, travel, etc), I think the real magic here is the way that the content itself is presented. Teknision has taken the concept of the Android homescreen containing icons and widgets, and transformed it into a much more useful (and tremendously more beautiful) information hub. This is what a tablet should give a user. Access to a plethora of information from the starting point (the homescreen) presented in a semi-uniform, and very elegant fashion.
As I see it, each of the panels in the "Dashboard" is essentially just a widget of sorts, displaying a subset of data to the user without actually entering the app itself. While it looks like they've already aimed to add a lot of useful panels, this really should be something that allows 3rd party developers to develop their own panels/widgets. I don't think this will be taken seriously by most developers unless, like I've said multiple times already, this is baked in at the core of Android, and becomes the "stock" Android Tablet homescreen experience.
Tablets can be "Peopleal" devices, not just "Personal" devices
One of my biggest problems with tablets thus far is that the vast majority of apps (aside from several of Google's apps) don't currently support multiple accounts within the app. This essentially prevents more than one person from being able to use most of the account-based apps on the device. For example, my wife is unable to use "our" tablet to play games such as Words with Friends, Scramble with Friends, Draw Something and others using her account. And while she can play non-account-based games, Angry Birds for example, she would actually be progressing within my game, not her own.
I think this could be resolved by bringing the concept of users to Android tablets. Each user's application data being stored in separate directories, rather than all in a single directory, so as to allow separate instances of the same app(s) for separate users. This all could be greatly supplemented by Teknision's multiple-user take on Ice Cream Sandwich's Face Unlock feature.
As you can see from the image above, Chameleon allows for users to use their face to unlock the device and take them straight into their personal Dashboard. Why shouldn't a user be able to unlock the device with their face and be instantly presented with the "Dashboard" setup that they have personally configured.
And just as ICS presents you with the pattern-unlock if unable to find/recognize your face, Chameleon's lock screen should present you with a single pattern unlock if it does not recognize a user. Each user could have their own pattern and be authenticated using only that pattern.
Creating the "iPad-Killer"
There are about a million things that Google can do to improve the Android tablet experience, but I think these two features would really give Android tablets the edge that they need if Google really wants to compete in that space.
Imagine (if you're not) that you're a father/mother with a couple kids, and you'd love to have a single tablet device that could be used by your entire family. If you saw a commercial for a "Google Play Tablet" featuring it's user profiles with that elegant dashboard homescreen configured differently for Dad, Mom, Jimmy, and Judy, wouldn't it catch your attention?