Google previewed ‘Honeycomb’ this week, the upcoming, tablet-focused version of the Android operating system. This version – version 3.0 – runs the new tablet-sized apps, as well as existing Android smartphone apps, and Google are hoping that it will enable Android based devices to start to compete with Apple’s iPad.
Google has designed the home screen of Android ‘Honeycomb’ operated tablets to provide a dense array of widgets spanning multiple pages.
It also has a lower “System Bar” containing app switcher controls and a taskbar (called “notifications and system status”), an upper “Action Bar” with search and app launching controls, and a series of virtual desktops, each containing a strip of app icons below a series of floating panels that can present media playback controls, live inbox and calendar items, stacks of ebooks and YouTube videos.
The ‘Honeycomb’ home screen layout has far more in common with a desktop PC than the relatively simple iPad, which was based on the iPhone.
Google described the ‘Honeycomb’ desktop as “an application development platform in itself,” using the same widget apps that appear on Android phones. One drawback to existing Android widgets is that often they constantly request data, using up battery life. Apple designed their iOS devices to do very little until the user actually launches an app, helping to conserve battery life.
However, ‘Honeycomb’ delivers some features currently missing from Apple’s iPad. These include elevation views with 3D buildings in Google Maps 5.0, a popup notification system that presents update notices similar to the Windows taskbar and support for GoogleTalk video messaging.
The new Android release also catches up in some respects to iOS 4.0. Of particular interest to businesses is support for some basic new enterprise policy management features and HTTP Live Streaming. However, it remains to be seen whether its this will translate into a more functional and secure operating system for businesses, in a year when when the iPad 2 and the RIM Playbook will be launched.