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Intel shows off more of its MeeGo Tablet UI, still needs lots of work

Joanna Stern
You may remember back at Computex we caught a very quick look at Intel's MeeGo for tablets. Well, Intel's landed at MWC with that very same tablet user interface, except it has done a bit of work to the underlying software and it's finally ready to start letting the press play around with it. If you were to closely compare the design of the UI or what Intel is calling its "tablet user experience" to the one we saw back in June, you probably wouldn't notice much of a difference in terms of aesthetics, and that's because most of the work Intel's been doing has been to the code and framework -- it shifted it away from C++ and moved it over to QML, which is part of the Qt language. The brunt of the experience and the individual apps (we'll get to those, or the lack there of soon) are all built on QML, which Intel's Mike Richmond promises will enable lots of neat UI elements. So yes, Intel's done some important retooling on the technical and software end of things, but unfortunately, that doesn't mean the interface is anywhere close to done yet. We got a look at the software running on an Atom-powered ExoPC, so hit the break to find out just what we are talking about.

We'll be blunt about it: it's actually rather shocking how little seems to have been improved since June. Intel claims the software is now in an Alpha stage (it was in pre-Alpha at Computex), though we're not even sure it is that. The live updating pane interface, which reminds us a bit of the webOS cards, is certainly a neat idea and it's actually decently attractive, but it's when you start to dig in deep that the glitches and the lack of applications Intel's got at the moment become very apparent. While the video and music players worked, the browser, which is based on Chromium and happens to be a larger part of the OS, was frustrating to say the least. While we could live with the lack of pinch-to-zoom at the moment (Intel says it will come), the slow scrolling and double tapping to zoom just made the browsing experience downright disappointing. On the bright side, Intel's working with Swype so text input in both the browser and e-mail client was actually rather swift.

However, beyond those four or so apps, there's nothing else at the moment in terms of applications, and while Intel's promising to bring its AppUp store to the platform (it's even holding a developers meeting on it here at MWC), it wasn't willing to discuss a time frame on that. In fact, Richmond wouldn't even give us an idea of when the tablet UI would be ready. We've got a video for you after the break, which actually makes the experience look much breezier than it really is, but the bottom line is that while it's nice to see Intel attempting to get into the software side of things, MeeGo for tablets isn't anywhere close to ready for prime time. Here's hoping we're not looking at the same thing come this year's Computex...

Update: Feel like deciding for yourself on this one? If you've got a Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3t, ExoPC or WeTab, you can download the ISO for yourself here and try it out.

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