December 23, 2010 | by Michael Heller
Rohan Shravan, Notion Ink
Creative Director, Founder and CEO
Nominated because: He is responsible for one of the most hyped, yet controversial, devices of the past year: the Adam tablet.
The Notion Ink Adam has had a roller coaster year, and it hasn’t even been released yet. If the device can live up to even a fraction of the promise and hype that has been building around it, it could be a star in the first generation of Android tablets. Unfortunately, there are many who still believe that the device is nothing but vaporware from an unknown company. Start-up Notion Ink and leader Rohan Shravan still have a lot to prove, and a lot to overcome.
The Notion Ink Adam was first revealed at CES this past January, and quickly gained a cult following because of the bold and impressive industrial design, most notably the Pixel Qi screen, which promises to combine a high quality LCD touch display with battery saving and sunlight friendly eInk technology. The Adam had a tumultuous development cycle. It was a hot commodity with tons of buzz, but then venture capitalists came in and attempted to change fundamental aspects of the device, including changing the OS to Windows 7, and changing the Adam into a netbook, because they didn’t understand that the netbook had already been made obsolete by the introduction of the iPad. These delays fueled those who were worried that the Adam was nothing but vaporware – an enticing product that never makes it to market.
Rohan Shravan took it upon himself to prove the device by documenting the development process in his blog, though he did try to keep certain aspects a mystery. The mystery proved damaging as none of the blog posts showed the actual device, just simulated screen images. Rohan proudly showed off how he incorporated the Golden Ratio into the Adam, as well as how his love of music led to building an impressive sound system in the tablet. He showed off the revolutionary Eden paneling/multitasking system which allows easy access to frequently used tasks, and features a Cover Flow-like design. This insight into the precision and care that was put into the design of the Adam drew comparisons to Apple, unfortunately Rohan has proved he is not on the level of Steve Jobs when it comes to launching a product. The Adam recently began taking pre-orders, but ran into troubles almost immediately with concerns over return policies and a pre-order page that didn’t show images of the product for sale, which compounded the lack of real world images throughout the development cycle. These issues once again have reignited ideas that the Adam is vaporware and Notion Ink could be an untrustworthy company.
Rohan continued to fight back. He had always wanted to have the official public showcase of the Adam at CES in January, as a sort of anniversary celebration. But, to restore faith in his company and his device, Rohan has begun releasing video demonstrations of the Adam, the Eden UI, and proprietary apps being used in the real world, not just simulated images.
Notion Ink and Rohan Shravan are unproven, but that is the path that start-ups must take. Aside from marketing and PR bumps, the hardware and software design of the Notion Ink Adam appear to be extremely well thought out. Android has opened up the market for hardware manufacturers, and the coming wave of tablets offers more opportunity for talented companies to break through. Notion Ink is aiming very high with their first attempt – an Android tablet, launching worldwide without the Android Market, and without Android’s official OS release for the form factor. But, with its own tablet oriented app and content store, impressively designed UI, striking industrial design, and a promise of Honeycomb and the full Android Market in the future, the Adam is filled with promise.
In the end though, execution is always key, not promise. 2011 could be when we finally see that the Notion Ink Adam is nothing but smoke, or it could be when Rohan Shravan proves himself as a true force. Whatever the outcome, Notion Ink and Rohan Shravan have made quite a stir in 2010, and will likely make a splash in 2011, for good or ill.
This article is part of a series of profiles on the people who most-impacted Android in 2010. Read more about the Android Person of the Year series here.