Google previews Android 3.0 ‘Honeycomb’ SDK for tablets

27 Jan 2011

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Google has released a preview of the Android 3.0 SDK to allow developers to start testing apps on the tablet form factor. It includes a ‘holographic’ user interface (UI) theme and many other new features.

Android 3.0 ‘Honeycomb’ is a new version of the Android platform that is designed from the ground up for devices with larger screen sizes, particularly tablets.

The new operating system could be a significant game changer in the burgeoning media tablet computer market – currently, 90pc of it is dominated by Apple’s iPad. But with 85 new and primarily Android tablets announced at CES, the landscape has the potential to shift dramatically. An IDC/Appcelerator survey revealed that 74pc of developers are "very interested" in developing apps for Android devices.

It introduces a new “holographic” UI theme and an interaction model that builds on the things people love about Android — multitasking, notifications, widgets and others — and adds many new features, as well.

“Besides the user-facing features it offers, Android 3.0 is also specifically designed to give developers the tools and capabilities they need to create great applications for tablets and similar devices, together with the flexibility to adapt existing apps to the new UI while maintaining compatibility with earlier platform versions and other form factors,” said Xavier Ducrohet, Android SDK Tech Lead in a blog post last night.

“Today, we are releasing a preview of the Android 3.0 SDK, with non-final APIs and system image, to allow developers to start testing their existing applications on the tablet form factor and begin getting familiar with the new UI patterns, APIs and capabilities that will be available in Android 3.0."

Highlights of Android 3.0 ‘Honeycomb’

The new SDK features a UI framework for creating apps for larger-screen devices. Developers can use new UI components, new themes, richer widgets and notifications, drag and drop, and other new features to create rich and engaging apps for users on larger-screen devices.

It also comes with the capability for high-performance 2D and 3D graphics. A new property-based animation framework lets developers add visual effects to their apps. A built-in GL renderer lets developers request hardware-acceleration of common 2D rendering operations in their apps, across the entire app or only in specific activities or views. For adding rich 3D scenes, developers can take advantage of a new 3D graphics engine called Renderscript.

The SDK offers support for multicore processor architecture. Android 3.0 is optimised to run on either single- or dual-core processors, so that applications run with the best possible performance.

Android 3.0 will feature new multimedia features, such as HTTP Live streaming support, a pluggable DRM (digital rights management) framework, and easy media file transfer through MTP/PTP to give developers new ways to bring rich content to users.

The new operating system will come with new APIs for Bluetooth A2DP and HSP, which lets applications offer audio streaming and headset control. Support for Bluetooth insecure socket connections lets applications connect to simple devices that may not have a user interface.

From a business/organisational perspective, the new operating system will come with specific enhancements for enterprise use. New administrative policies, such as for encrypted storage and password expiration, help enterprise administrators manage devices more effectively.

Accessing the SDK

Developers who want to check out the new features should visit the Android 3.0 Platform Highlights.

Google is also releasing updates to its SDK Tools (r9), NDK (r5b), and ADT Plugin for Eclipse (9.0.0) which will include improved drag-and-drop in the editor, with better support for included layouts; in-editor preview of objects animated with the new animation framework; and visualisation of UI based on any version of the platform, independent of project target; and improved rendering, with better support for custom views.

To find out how to get started developing or testing applications using the Android 3.0 Preview SDK, see the Preview SDK Introduction. Details about the changes in the latest versions of the tools are available on the pages on the site.

Google has warned that applications developed with the Android 3.0 Platform Preview cannot be published on Android Market.

“We’ll be releasing a final SDK in the weeks ahead that you can use to build and publish applications for Android 3.0,” Ducrohet said.

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com