Google's Android 3.0, code-named Honeycomb, will not only help developers adapt their applications for larger screen sizes, but also support multi-core processor architecture, 3-D graphics, and more.
The search giant announced on its Android developer blog Wednesday that the 3.0 software development kit with non-final application program interfaces and a system image is available for software designers to test their existing applications for the tablet form factor and familiarize themselves with the user interface.
Optimized for Tablets
New features of the 3.0 user interface include a system bar at the bottom of the screen for quick access to notifications, system status, and soft navigation; an action bar for application control; a redesigned touchscreen keyboard optimized for fast and accurate text entry; and improvements to the browser and camera.
An "incognito" mode allows anonymous browsing, while bookmarks and history are presented in a single view. The camera application allows better control of exposure, zoom and flash, while the gallery presents album views in full-screen mode.
Although some manufacturers, such as Dell and Samsung, created tablets running Android 2.1 or 2.2, which was intended for smartphones, Honeycomb is the first to be optimized for larger screens. Motorola pointedly said last September that it would not release a tablet until Android had a suitable operating system and, true to its word, released the Xoom tablet running Honeycomb at the recent Consumer Electronics Show. The Xoom will be available beginning Feb. 17 via Verizon Wireless.
The Xoom sports a dual-core processor, and Honeycomb is optimized to run on single- or dual-core processors, wrote Zavier Ducrohet, Google's Android SDK tech lead, on the developers blog. He also wrote, "A new property-based animation framework lets developers add great visual effects to their apps." To shift 2-D apps into 3D mode, "A built-in GL renderer lets developers request hardware acceleration of common 2-D apps, across the entire app or only in specific activities of views."
Renderscript, a new 3-D graphics engine, will help add rich 3-D scenes.
New Connectivity, Business Features
Honeycomb will also allow for new connectivity via Bluetooth A2DP and HSP for audio streaming and headset control. Enhancements for business users include new administrative policies for password expiration and encrypted storage.
Devices powered by Honeycomb will have to compete with the new version of Apple's popular iPad, which is likely to be announced in the next few weeks for spring release.
"Sounds like Google has a great eye for new features that should appeal to consumers and developers," said Charles King, principal analyst of Pund-IT. "If Apple doesn't provide similar capabilities, they could find themselves slipping further behind."
Google warned developers not to jump the gun by trying to publish apps developed through the platform preview on the Android Market before the final SDK is released in the coming weeks.