Marvell Kinoma Play Android app hands-on preview (video)

Jacob Schulman
J. Schulman|06.22.11

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Marvell Kinoma Play Android app hands-on preview (video)
First unveiled back in February, Kinoma is Marvell's take on a "new open app platform" targeted at everything from mobile devices to desktops to embedded handhelds. Here in New York, the company is finally showing off a live version of the software in the form of Kinoma Play, an implementation of the platform that runs atop Android 2.2 Froyo -- for the moment at least. The folks from Marvell also had a massive touchscreen loaded up with a desktop version of the software running in a simulator atop OS X for eager onlookers to fool around with. Head past the break for a quick rundown of the offering and plans to do with it, along with some juicy video footage of the stuff in action.

Since being acquired by Marvell in January, Kinoma has shifted away from its Sony E-reader days towards an open, mobile app platform. In a nutshell, Kinoma Play is an Android app itself that serves as a launcher for other apps written specifically for the Kinoma environment. Essentially, these apps are written in Javascript -- which means that any web developer can get up and running on the engine quickly, without knowledge of native Android or iOS development platforms. Developers simply focus on the meat of the app itself, while Kinoma handles all the interactions, transitions, and the like. The platform's Facebook app was written in just a few lines of code, we're told, and most of the apps have <100KB footprints.

In its current form, Kinoma Play acts as an app unto itself, only springing to action when launched from the homescreen of an Android device it's installed on. It resembles the familiar Android and iOS homescreens, consisting of a grid of apps that can be rearranged and moved by tapping and holding. Interestingly, there's an "Android Apps" app which allows shortcuts to native Android apps to be added directly onto the Kinoma Play homescreen. There are also familiar API calls for developers to hook into the Kinoma mechanism for things like sharing, which leads to a user experience very reminiscent of the native Android sharing pane. Finally, the Kinoma Play app boasts its very own app store -- from which you can download even other app stores that offer native Android apps. How's that for meta, huh?

One other feature we really liked was the dashboard, which aggregates content and updates from other apps in real time. This screen can be toggled right from the homescreen, and is chock full of interesting information. There are actually four different dashboards, including a "search dashboard" that allows you to enter a search string that will then trigger a search across all applicable apps like Flickr, YouTube, and Bing. Once you've chosen a topic to search, it will subsequently display all results as thumbnails simultaneously, and clicking any of them opens that result up in its Kinoma app. It's definitely an interesting feature that sort of reminds us of Palm's "Just Type," albeit in a completely souped up fashion.

When it comes to use cases, Marvell is really stressing the openness and cross-platform nature of its offering here with Kinoma. The company is excited about the simplicity of bringing apps to multiple platforms and form factors simultaneously, and we have to admit we're interested in the possibilities. When we questioned about whether there'd be a dedicated tablet version of Kinoma Play, we couldn't get anything concrete beyond the fact that it's "likely" we'll see features that allow apps to take advantage of the larger screen real estate and varying features of different devices.

We also asked about iOS, and were told that there's currently no build of Kinoma for it just yet. However, with Apple's current stance on app stores within apps, we wouldn't be surprised if this was one platform that probably won't ever get Kinoma love. We did get to see a demo of the app running on a touchscreen-free Symbian device, but that implementation seemed far less impressive than the full touchscreen Android offering. Finally, we're told that it's theoretically possible for phones to boot directly to Kinoma, and that Softbank in Japan actually has one such device currently on the market.

In all, we came away pretty impressed with Marvell's first public showing of Kinoma, but the question we still have to ask ourselves is "why?" When you think about it, we were basically using an app downloaded from an app store, that has an app store within it that you can use to download other apps -- all full of apps. We're intrigued by the ease of development and the fact that these apps can (supposedly) run on pretty much anything, but so far developers haven't really shied away from native apps and they don't seem to be doing so currently. We still don't have a hard date for when you developers and tinkerers will get to mess around with this bit of software yet, but you know we'll let you know as soon as we do. Stay tuned.
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