The controversy generated by Nokia’s statements regarding MeeGo this week doesn’t seem to have slowed Intel down one bit. Today, the company showed off a new tablet user experience (aka user interface) for MeeGo that will be available to programmers through Intel’s AppUp Developer program within the next few weeks. With the MeeGo Tablet UX, developers will be able to create rich tablet-oriented apps for MeeGo and vendors will have the tools they need to create and sell MeeGo slates.
Intel is not ready to announce any tablet partners for MeeGo, but the developer install is designed to work on the ExoPC Slate, WeTab, and any of the other Atom-based slates that use the same 10-inch design. It will also be made available for the Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3t.
We got a private demo from Intel of an ExoPC running on the MeeGo Tablet UX and were impressed with the unique panel-based interface that sits on the device’s home screen. The desktop has a series of different panels on it, which you can scroll through by going left and right. Somewhat like fancy Android widgets, but with a lot more content, each panel displays a series of updates, tools, or content. The screen on the 1366 x 768 ExoPC screen can show two and a half panels at once, but we’re not sure how this would work out on a lower or higher resolution device.
From left to right, there are six default panels. My Tablet shows you a list of shortcuts to recent apps you’ve opened, and buttons for settings and the full app menu page, which looks just like the an Android apps menu screen (more on that later). The Friends tab shows social networking updates or news updates. The Music tab shows recently played songs and some playlists. The Photos tab shows recently viewed pictures. The Web tab shows recently visited sites and the Videos Tab shows recently viewed videos.
Tapping on any piece of content launches that web site, photo, video, song, or update in full screen mode. You can hit the home button on the notebooks bezel to get back to panels. Also, tapping on any panel’s title bar flips it around visually and shows you a settings menu for controlling that panel specifically. For example, you can set the Friends panel to display the feeds you want.
Unfortunately, in its current form, there’s not much the user can do to control the panels. There’s no way to reorder the panels, remove a panel, or add a new panel. Intel spokesperson and MeeGo Guru Mike Richmond told us that the company is looking for feedback on what kinds of panel customization features, if any, it should add to the OS. Developers can create new panels, though, and Intel hopes that OEMs who sell MeeGo tablets will do a lot of work on creating rich panel experiences.
Another feature we wish the MeeGo Tablet UX would have is the ability to interact with widget content without loading it full screen. Unfortunately, for example,, when you tap a video, it takes you to a full screen to watch the video, rather than playing it in-panel.
Richmond said that the MeeGo Tablet UX is designed for users who are familiar with how computers work and like to multitask. For that reason, Intel has included context menus that pop up whenever you long press on the screen. Just like the right click menus you get with a mouse, these menus allow you to choose from options that are relevant to the app you’re using.
If the application you want is not represented by a panel, you can get to it, by tapping on View all Applications button on the My Tablet widget. You’ll then be presented with a black screen filled with application icons, which looks a lot like the same screen on Android. Intel bundles a few basic applications with the Tablet UX, including a calculator, camera, web browser, photo gallery, music player, and video player.
We’ve enjoyed playing with MeeGo on netbooks, but we think we may like it even better on tablets. The panel interface has a lot of potential if both Intel and third party developers build on the promising features we saw this week. Check out our hands-on video and gallery below for a closer look at the MeeGo Tablet UX.