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Google is testing Android split-screen multitasking

A Google engineer confirms it's working on several productivity updates for Android tablets.

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Google's Pixel C convertible was a stark reminder that Android still doesn't have the productivity chops of other platforms like Chrome OS and Windows, despite packing in a decent keyboard and solid hardware. But in a Reddit conversation yesterday, an engineer noted that the company is working on filling Android's gaps. "We're working hard on a range of enhancements for Android in this form-factor," said Glen Murphy, user experience director of Android and Chrome. "There are many things, like multi-window, that we've been spending a lot of time on -- hopefully we can share more about this soon." Samsung and Microsoft have been offering true tablet multi-tasking with split screen for years, and it's something Apple even brought over to iOS 9. So, really, it's pretty surprising that Google hasn't brought it to Android yet.

Google's consumer hardware director, Andrew Bowers, notes that split-screen is in the works for Android N, the operating system's next major release. But given Google's release cycle, we probably won't see that OS on devices until next fall.

As Ars Technica reports, Google seems to have been working on a variety of operating systems for the Pixel C before settling on plain old Android. There's evidence it was building a version of Chrome OS that worked better with touch screens, as well as the ability to dual boot Android and Chrome OS. We don't know for sure why Google scrapped those plans, but it might have something to do with reports that Android and Chrome OS will eventually merge into a single platform.

And what of the perennial lack of quality Android tablet apps? "We're spending a lot of time working with developers to get better and more awesome tablet apps," Murphy said. "But it is definitely a chicken-egg problem, and we think a key driver is awesome hardware (like the Pixel-C :)." It's true there haven't been many truly great Android tablets (though I'm a big fan of Samsung's Tab S series and the Nexus line), but if Google wants developers to actually pay attention, it needs to step up in a bigger way.

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