First look at Aro: another example of why chaos on Android is good

There’s been a lot of chatter lately from Apple about why Android’s platform chaos is bad. What is chaos? Well, it’s the fact that every Android phone isn’t the same.

My Samsung, for instance, has tons of icons and apps and even a different look and feel than other devices from other manufacturers. That’s chaos. It’s generally bad to someone who sees a device as art, like Steve Jobs does, and it makes it harder to support. After all, if someone is having a problem, if all devices are the same, it’s easier to figure out. But if every device is different, it’s harder to figure out what’s causing the problem.

Underneath there’s chaos too as developers have to handle different devices and make sure their code still works on all of them.

Looked at it these ways, chaos is bad!

But where is chaos good? Well, two companies demonstrate how chaos is good: The first is Swype, which makes a much better keyboard for some Android devices. When I visited them a few months ago they had it working on iPhone and iPad, but they couldn’t get approved by Apple. You should watch that video to get an idea of how it works (you swipe your finger over the keyboard rather than poking at it and trying to hit small targets with your fingers) and why it’s so much faster than other virtual keyboards.

You can just hear Steve Jobs yelling in pain as he watches that video “what do you mean there would be two different keyboards on my devices? Hell no!”

But today we have another example of why chaos is good on Android: Aro. What is Aro? It’s a new personal information manager. Basically it takes over your email, your contacts, your calendar, and makes them all better and easier to use. How does it work?

It stores all that data in a new database that analyses all that info semantically. Do you see the chaos yet? Lots of chaos. First it replaces all those pieces of the cell phone, and can even hook into the phone dialer. Steve Jobs would +never+ allow that, would he? Second, it stores your data in a new cloud-based database. That brings into focus new privacy and backup concerns (they answer those on the video, but they are new concerns that don’t exist on the iPhone). More chaos.

Anyway, the video with Aro’s CEO, Jonathan D. Lazarus, is long (46 minutes) but Aro is the most innovative thing I’ve seen done for mobile phones lately, so I think it deserves a long look. If you only have a few minutes, pop over to about 5:55 into the video where you’ll see a demo of Aro.

What does Aro do? If, say, Bill Gates sends Steve Jobs an email, copies me, and is talking about Larry Ellison, Larry’s name will have a little square around it. Click on that square and a new UI fans out, letting me see other info. It’s like Rapportive or Xobni, but done much better and for the mobile interface. It makes your phone much more productive than it would be otherwise and that’s why I feel it’s so important.

One aside, this video is the first I did with Apple’s iMovie 11, so it’s in high-def. One problem. It took dozens of hours to import, edit, process, and upload, so I doubt I will use HD for these longer videos.