Software Programs

Live Coverage: Google Boots Android 3.0 Honeycomb, High-Tech Tablet OS

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Today, Google invited select members of the press to its Mountain View, California headquarters for the unveiling of Android 3.0. Codenamed Honeycomb, it’s the next-generation Android release and the first to be specifically optimized for tablets.

Early information we’ve compiled so far in our guide reveal that Honeycomb could give Apple’s iOS a good run for its money with its gorgeous user interface, true multitasking, smoothness and awesome Tron-esque visual theme. But that’s just tip of the iceberg as Google will today show off the entire feature set of Android 3.0 and demo some of the key capabilities designed to out-Apple Apple.

A number of blogs are right there on the spot and we’re providing you with this remote coverage for your convenience. So sit back, relax and enjoy the show, right here on BSN. And don’t forget to hit the Refresh button in your browser every five minutes or so because the page doesn’t automatically update itself.

And here we go, Android chief Andy Rubin takes the stage.

Rubin starts off by demoing the Motorola Xoom tablet that runs a Honeycomb build.

Cloud is the key, he says. Google services come to the rescue because all your data can reside in the cloud for worry-free computing, allowing you to easily restore any item should you lose any of your connected devices.

Hugo Barra joins Rubin on the stage. He starts off by saying that the home screen is basically "an application development platform in itself."

Putting his money where his mouth is, Barra runs through a bunch of jaw-dropping widgets. This stuff looks so much better than the widgets you currently have on your high-end Android phone.

Honeycomb soups up Android’s already nicely done notification systems. Basically, notifications can now be like widgets that show when needed. For example, touch the music icon in the notification bar and up pops the music notification widget with basic controls like pause, fast forward, stop etc.

Honeycomb is designed from the ground up from speed, promising to run "really well" provided it follows the search firm’s recommended guidelines. In addition, Honeycomb supports what’s described as multi-hand gestures. 

Another demo: Fruit slicing game Fruit Ninja looks business on the Xoom tablet, smooth and with great graphics. A number of key apps have been optimized for the tablet form factor. Two-pane Gmail app is being demoed, seen in the below image.

Honeycomb also supports so-called application fragments, basically re-usable pieces of user interface that can be easily merged together and layered to form a fluid, lively user experiences.

All this snazzy graphics is credited to optimized 2D and 3D subsystems employing every trick in the book, from Open GL to hardware-assisted video encoding and decoding to offload the main processor. As a result, the Honeycomb experience should be second to none. Apple, are you wathching this?

The system also has a new accelerated 3D graphics engine called Renderscript. We’re being shown a smooth three-dimensional wall comprised of YouTube videos. It animates smoothly, courtesy of Renderscript, as does switching between the widgets (below) and the home screen. Google Books is another Renderscript-accelerated application.

Another new feature is the Application Bar allowing you to quickly switch between apps regardless of what you’re doing. Another cool thing is the Action button at the top for quick in-app access to the commonly-used features of the foreground app. Next, an enhanced Music app with 3D album browsing mode. Sadly, that’s not the iTunes-killer you’ve been waiting for. 

Surprise, surprise, Google demoes a brand spanking new program. Google Body, "the Google Maps of the human body." Now, this looks interesting and graphics quality is top-notch, even with complex models of the human skeleton with crazy amount of detail. This is unlike anything you’ve ever seen on a tablet, that’s for sure.

A couple of great-looking games are being demoed, including Monster Madness and Great Battles, a real-time strategy that exploits the power of the Xoom’s dual-core processor.

Those games look business, but seem to be suffering from overall jerkiness. Maybe this has something to do with an early stage of the code? Let’s hope so… 

Time for a camera demo. The new Camera app blown up across the entire screen really looks nice. It has an attractive user interface and supports videoconferencing.

Now Google Talk video chatting is being demoed with a new image stabilization technology. Video quality looks good enough to me and fullscreen chatting looks awesome.

Some of the developers are now up on stage, among them chief of CNN’s mobile experience who announces that the CNN app for Honeycomb (below) will soon launch, free of charge.

We’re being shown live CNN video over WiFi, CNN
iReport news crowdsourcing feature, cool news layouts and more. And now, something completely different.

Enter Android Web Store, an entirely new to browse third-party Android software on the web (finally!). Available at, the storefront literally lets you explore the wealth of apps on Android Market in a new way. Find an app you like? No problem, just send it to any of your authorized Android devices over-the-air and boom, you’re good to go.

As you can imagine, each app can be reached via a regular http link that’ll be presumably well crawled by Google’s search engine bots, making app discovery easier than on Apple’s store.

The Android Web Store also has the tweet button and options to filter apps by device type and compatibility. Talk about Android fragmentation! We’ve also gotten confirmation of in-app purchasing, a new feature that allows programmers to write apps that sell additional content, such as levels in games, subscriptions, etc, from within the app itself.

Time for some demoes. Several high-profile developers exchange on stage, among them well-known iOS developers who are now giving Android some love. We’re seeing one of the most popular iPhone and iPad apps now running smoothly on Honeycomb, including Radio Disney, JellyCar and Tap Tap Revenge 4. The latter is due this spring and it’ll feature in-app purchase.

With these presentations now successfully wrapped up, Andy Rubin signs off and leaves the stage.

That’s it folks, the show is over.