Google demonstrates Android's Honeycomb tablet version, brings Android Market to the Web
The new version of Google's Android operating system that will run such upcoming tablet computers as Motorola's Xoom looks less vaporous today.
Android 3.0, nicknamed Honeycomb by Google, was only visible as a short, canned demo at the Consumer Electronics Show last month, but today Google gave this release an extended introduction.
(Honeycomb works only for tablets; you won't be able to put this on an Android phone, at least not without involved tinkering.)
To judge from that demonstration and the descriptions on Google's developer site, Honeycomb may feel considerably more like a desktop operating system than the iPad flavor of Apple's iOS does. For example, it will feature a System Bar at the bottom of the screen, where the taskbar lives in Windows, while individual programs can place an Action Bar at the top.
Honeycomb's desktop relies even more on "widgets" -- small windows into the capabilities and content of your applications -- than phone releases of Android. A list of recent applications, including thumbnail views of what each looked like when you last used it, might make multitasking more obvious than in phone Android.
Like the phone-oriented version of Android that Samsung shipped on its Galaxy Tab tablet, Honeycomb also features updated versions of such basic Android programs as its calendar and e-mail client that take advantage of the bigger screen.
For current Android users, the more relevant part of today's Google event came when it introduced a Web interface to the Android Market. This belated addition -- first introduced at its developers' conference in May -- lets you browse for applications and install them from the site to an Android phone.
In terms of app shopping, it makes it far easier to skim through an application's reviews and see what sort of access it wants to your phone's capabilities. But the Web-driven installation didn't work with a year-old Android phone: The application showed up in the phone's Market as selected but not installed, requiring two extra taps to download and install it.
By the end of this quarter, the Android Market will support in-application purchases. That will remedy a major shortfall compared to Apple's App Store -- and it may become a competitive advantage if Apple continues to push application-specific transactions to its App Store, where it takes 30 percent of each sale.
Do you have an Android tablet on your shopping list? If you have an Android device now, how has the Web version of the Market been working for you? Let me know in the comments.
| February 2, 2011; 4:38 PM ET
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