So long robot, I'm ditching Android

Dear Google, that's it! I've had enough! Enough of the random lockups and reboots. Enough of the buggy browser and convoluted multitasking. Enough of Android!

Google, I've given you a fair shot. I drank the Kool-Aid. I joined the Android Army. And I wore my green robot tattoo thingy with pride. However, I could never shake the feeling that I've been running with the wrong crowd.

As a certified Windows NT bigot from long before it was cool to be one, I find myself constantly comparing the Android OS experience to my years of working with Cutler's masterpiece. And no matter how I slice it, Google, your OS keeps coming up short. From multitasking performance (big Wi-Fi file transfers slow my Iconia Tab to a crawl) to robustness (a hang or reboot a day keeps the productivity at bay) to simple usability (I positively hate that stupid recent apps list mechanism), I keep pining for something more, well, NT-like.

So I've decided to take a step back from our cozy post-PC relationship and re-evaluate my goals. For example, while I prize your app selection and (nearly) full-featured productivity tools, I miss the carefree attitude I developed when working with an OS that rarely, if ever, crashes. And though I enjoy tinkering with custom Android ROMs/kernels and overclocking my dual-core, Tegra 2-based Iconia A200 to the point where it spanks many quad-core devices on popular benchmarks, the uncertainty of when and how your nascent tablet OS might fold on me next has taken all of the joy out of that raw performance.

If anything, your OS feels more akin to Windows 98 (or that cute-yet-crazy gymnast I dated in high school): Light, flexible and highly unstable. As the guy who literally wrote the book on "Migrating to Windows NT" (Copyright 1993, Brady Books -- look it up), it is a sensation I simply cannot abide. Even with a stock ROM/kernel, I find Android 4.0.3 to be quite unreliable. Heck, the first non-beta version of your own flagship web browser, Google Chrome, locks my tab up tight whenever I try to log into Disqus. And then there are the endless reboot loops stemming from an auto-update to the APEX Launcher I received just this morning. Talk about performance anxiety! This is just crazy!

Of course, if I'm going to throw in the towel on our relationship, Google, the next big question becomes: Where do I go next? Should I tough it out for a few weeks and see if Surface finally grows out of its schizophrenic beginnings? Sure, it's Windows NT under the covers, but that Metro UI is an abomination, and I can't stand using the desktop interface on a tablet (big fingers and small buttons don't mix).

Should I try Apple? And become one of the mindless "sheeple" hanging out at the local Starbucks, trying to look all "hip" and "deep?" Puhleeezzz!

First Love

No, the only option that makes sense is to go back to my first love, the platform that launched my post-PC adventure: QNX, in the form of my trusty RIM Playbook. When my Iconia Tab was down with another mysterious failure, it was my Playbook that provided the virtual shoulder to cry on while allowing me to get back online and search for ways to fix my broken relationship. And every time I fired up that black beauty, I was reminded of how smoothly QNX multitasks. From file transfers to media playback to simply browsing the web without worrying about system stability or which sites would overload the web browser, my Playbook has remained my rock in the storm.

The whole experience reminds me of all the things I liked about Windows NT, only with a touch UI that actually harnesses the OS' underlying power in a sensible way. So when I finally decided to make the switch "back to black," it felt like I was coming home. And it turns out that my timing couldn't have been better, as rumor has it that RIM will be releasing version 2.1 of its enterprise-caliber tablet OS this week during the company's Blackberry JAM event in San Francisco.

With improved Android application support (including a better multitasking implementation than Android itself -- take that, Google!), and class-leading web browser standards support, Playbook OS 2.1 is poised to inject new life -- and a degree of class -- into this reliable, if un-glamorous, workhorse device.

I, for one, am looking forward to the release. All of my favorite Android apps already run flawlessly under RIM's runtime implementation, and the beta version of Playbook OS 2.1 has been more stable than any Android version I've tested. Assuming RIM maintains its track record for creating highly robust, secure mobile computing platforms, I can see this latest iteration meeting or exceeding my expectations.

So it's over, Google. We had some good times. But I need more. I need stability in my post-PC relationship, and RIM's QNX has got it in spades.

Catch Randall C. Kennedy's analysis of tech trends every Tuesday and Friday here at BetaNews.

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