Android Honeycomb video shows slick tablet OS

The next version of Google's mobile OS, teased in a now-hidden video, is "built entirely for tablets." It comes with a passel of revamped applications.

Google released a video today showing off the upcoming version of the Android operating system, called Honeycomb--and it is indeed just for tablets.

After a premature release earlier in the day, Andy Rubin, Google's vice president of engineering in charge of Android, published the video officially on a blog post. Here's what he had to say about Android 3.0:

Honeycomb is the next version of the Android platform, designed from the ground up for devices with larger screen sizes, particularly tablets. We've spent a lot of time refining the user experience in Honeycomb, and we've developed a brand-new, truly virtual and holographic user interface. Many of Android's existing features will really shine on Honeycomb: refined multitasking, elegant notifications, access to over 100,000 apps on Android Market, home screen customization with a new 3D experience, and redesigned widgets that are richer and more interactive. We've also made some powerful upgrades to the Web browser, including tabbed browsing, form auto-fill, syncing with your Google Chrome bookmarks, and incognito mode for private browsing.

The video showed earlier in the day on Google's YouTube page for Android, Boy Genius Report said, but it vanished. Copies sprang up at Engadget and AndroidPolice, though.

The video shows a very different look than what you'll see on an Android phone.

A look at Honeycomb, Google's tablet-oriented version of Android.
A look at Honeycomb, Google's tablet-oriented version of Android. Engadget

The interface is still Android, for example showing widgets and app icons and multiple home screens. But the widgets are often larger and more elaborate, as you might expect for an OS that, as the video asserts, is "built entirely for tablet."

Also shown in the video are a new wall-of-video look for browsing YouTube, a tablet-optimized Gmail app, full-screen Gmail video chat, the new 3D Google Maps interface, an e-book application for Google e-books, and "best-in-class Web browsing," including multiple tabs in a very Chrome-like interface.

Missing from at least some of the shots is Android's ubiquitous notification bar. It's not clear whether it can be hidden or if the video just doesn't show it.

Honeycomb's tablet focus was expected since September, when W.P. Wong, head of Samsung Mobile's product-planning team, said Honeycomb "is specifically optimized for a different type of tablet. This emphasizes mobility," during the launch of the company's Android-powered Galaxy Tab.

Android has the potential to challenge Apple's iPad, with the Samsung tablet so far the leading contender and many more challenges expected to show at CES this week. But the iPad already has a major market lead, a famously polished interface, and a wealth of tablet-optimized applications.

Honeycomb features full-screen video chat.
Honeycomb features full-screen video chat. Engadget
Adding a widget to one of five home screens.
Adding a widget to one of five home screens on Honeycomb. Engadget
YouTube browsing gets a 3D thumbnail wall in Honeycomb.
YouTube browsing gets a 3D thumbnail wall in Honeycomb. Engadget
Gmail on Honeycomb is optimized for tablets.
Gmail on Honeycomb is optimized for tablets. Engadget
Honeycomb's browser gets tabs on top, just like Google's Chrome.
Honeycomb's browser gets tabs on top, just like Google's Chrome. Engadget

Updated at 3:12 p.m., 4:10 p.m. PT, and 5:06 p.m. with further images and video.

 

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