Google reveals Android ‘Honeycomb’ tablets coming in 2011

7 Dec 2010

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The big news of yesterday was the first look at Android 2.3 ‘Gingerbread’ smartphones, but it seems the big news of today is that the next version of Android ‘Honeycomb’ is coming out next year with support for tablet computers.

Whether Google is taking Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ recent stinging criticism over varying experiences of Android to heart or not because of so many manufacturers with so many versions, it seems the search giant is intent on ensuring the experience of Android on any device is first rate. Jobs’ argument is how can that be the case when so many manufacturers can have so many versions? While Jobs was proven wrong that tablets based on Android would be DOA – Samsung has sold 1 million Galaxy Tab computers – he does make a cogent point, how do you ensure quality for an operating system supposedly open source?

Yesterday, Google unveiled Android 2.3 Gingerbread on the Nexus S, a phone based on the chassis of the Samsung Galaxy S that comes with near field communications (NFC). Like the first Nexus in January of this year, this device has been built with direct input from Google engineers. In my mind, when you enter the world of NFC you are in effect dealing with people’s future wallets – there can be little margin for error if that’s the case. Google gets that.

While Google put Gingerbread in the limelight, the real kicker was Andy Rubin unveiling a Motorola tablet device running Honeycomb, the next version of Android after Gingerbread at a D:Dive Into Mobile conference in the US, which he confirmed is due out next year.

3D tablets on the way

Initial reports suggest the tablet provided a computing experience "more desktop in flavour" and which allows an application to "switch its functionality to multiple views".

Basic details on the tablet prototype from Motorola are that the device features a 3D processor from NVIDIA that allows users to split apps into split panes – Rubin showed a Gmail app with a two-pane view, something currently impossible on 5- and 7-inch tablet devices.

Rubin said the Motorola device – which incidentally is buttonless – will be out next year. It is the first such device confirmed to carry the Honeycomb OS, but no doubt others will follow when 10-inch Android tablet devices debut early next year.

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com