Google shows off Android 3.0 Honeycomb in all its tablet glory

Google shows off Android 3.0 Honeycomb in all its tablet gloryWe've been talking about it for ages, seemingly, and we've been promised all kinds of high-powered hardware running it, but Google has finally taken the wraps off its Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablet OS and showed off its features to the world.

At an offical unveiling at its Mountain View HQ in the States, Android boss Andy Rubin took centre stage to unveil the shiny new OS and highlight its key features.

Probably the most regular accusation levelled at Android on smartphones is that it's not as polished as in particular Apple's iOS. Well, Google seems to have taken the criticism on board, as from its 3D graphics and smooth animations to its overhauled interface this is one slick-looking OS, and one that looks totally at home on the larger-screened form factor.

Google has jumped on board multi-tasking in a big way with Honeycomb, introducing a tab of running apps on the left of the screen that allows easy switching between tasks.

It's a feature that reminds us slightly of the Alt+Tab function on the PC for multi-tasking, and in several areas Google seems to have looked at concepts that have proved popular on larger-screened interfaces and interpreted them for its tablet OS.

For instance, Honeycomb introduces a notifications system on the bottom right-hand side of the screen, which discreetly displays matters requiring your attention out of the way until you have a chance to get to them. Various other controls can be accessed there too, including media playback controls and screen brightness.

Back to that polish we were talking up earlier, and Google has dipped deeply into the pot, mixing convenience and ease of use in equal measure. Notifications, for instance, and app widgets have been optimised for the tablet screen-size to show rich pop-up summaries of content without requiring you to actually enter the app.

Google's demo, for instance, showed off the ability to control music playback with a single click through the music notification icon.

Honeycomb also embraces 3D graphics in a big way through the RenderScript platform, which allows the likes of a 3D YouTube video wall and a page-turning animation in Books.

Indeed, much of Android 3.0's secret sauce appears to be providing developers with the means to add value to existing services with tailored interfaces and functionality. Gmail, for example, has a Honeycomb-specific twin-pane display mode using what Google calls 'application fragments' – a system that allows easy tailoring between different interfaces (such as portrait and landscape modes).

Google has clearly identified the on-board camera as one of the iPad 2's likely weaknesses (as have we all) and has given Android's on-board camera interface a serious kick in the pants.

And to top it all off, there's a new Android Market web store, allowing you to browse everything in the Market directly from the web itself. In a particularly timely dig at Apple given the controversy over its refusal to sanction the Sony Reader app, Google says it's happy for developers to build in-app purchases into their apps.

Read more about: Android

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