Google's new tablet OS: Honeycomb (FAQ)

What's new in Google's new Honeycomb Android mobile operating system, and what does it mean for the tablet market?

Among the new features on Honeycomb are more intuitive notifications for tablet users, who have more screen real estate to work with than phone users.
Among the new features on Honeycomb are more intuitive notifications for tablet users, who have more screen real estate to work with than phone users. James Martin/CNET

After Google earlier today showed off its Honeycomb software, a version of Android designed specifically for tablets, a number of CNET readers posed questions regarding the software, both in our live blog and in e-mails and comments. Here are a few of those questions, answered to the best of our ability.

What are the most interesting new features on Honeycomb?
The most significant change is that this operating system release was designed specifically for tablets, unlike earlier Android versions, which were designed mostly for phones and produced a mixed experience--at best--when magnified by the larger screen of the tablet.

As such, Google focused on making the graphics performance for Honeycomb much better than its predecessors, adding a 3D graphics engine and more interesting notification systems that take advantage of the larger screen sizes available on tablets. Google also refined the camera user interface to give those interested in playing around with camera settings many more options and features, as well as a time-lapse video recording feature.

When will Honeycomb arrive?
Not soon enough for either Google or Android fans, but not today either. Google representatives said that Honeycomb tablet release schedules are up to the hardware vendors using the software, namely Motorola with the Xoom and LG with the G-Slate. T-Mobile and LG said today that the G-Slate would be available "this spring," while the Xoom is expected to arrive by the end of next month .

For its part, Google said the Honeycomb code is ready and released a software-development kit to developers at the conclusion of today's event.

Will Honeycomb know if it's on a phone or tablet?
Yes, Google said software developers will be encouraged to develop tablet-oriented applications that take advantage of the larger screen size, but applications developed for phones running Honeycomb will also work fine on tablets. Applications will have to know which device they're running on in order to deliver the best experience, and certain features, like the Android Market Web Store, won't be usable on phones running Honeycomb.

How are they going to deal with fragmentation on Honeycomb?
Probably the same way they deal with it for the rest of Android: by promising that there will be some base level of compatibility across devices, but still running into problems with different screen sizes and versions. Like other new Android versions, there are going to be Honeycomb-specific features like the accelerated graphics performance and 3D stylings within certain applications that might not work well on older versions of Android.

Will there be a difference in resolution for Honeycomb apps running on tablets as opposed to phones?
No, Google confirmed that applications will look the same on either phones or tablets, as it demonstrated during today's event with the Fruit Ninja game, designed for phones, running on the Motorola Xoom.

Are all Honeycomb tablets going to be dual-core processor powered?
Google said there are no minimum processing requirements of Honeycomb. Some applications will likely require a dual-core chip to work properly, but the operating system itself will work fine on a single core processor.

Is one app purchase linked to one device or is it tied to a Gmail account, i.e., does every device that shares the account get the app?
The new Android Market now allows you to see a list of all the applications you've purchased and decide whether or not you want to assign that application to any device registered to your account that runs Android. You can use the same application on both your Android tablet and your Android phone at the same time, as application purchases have always been tied to accounts, rather than devices. It's just that now people are starting to own multiple Android devices, so Google made it easier to manage that list.

Google has posted a replay of the event video on YouTube, and you can see it here.

About the author

    Tom Krazit writes about the ever-expanding world of Google, as the most prominent company on the Internet defends its search juggernaut while expanding into nearly anything it thinks possible. He has previously written about Apple, the traditional PC industry, and chip companies. E-mail Tom.

     

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