Google's Andy Rubin has been showing off Honeycomb, the next version of Android and one with proper tablet support, explaining how Android applications will work across form factors.
With Gingerbread (Android 2.3) still not out of the door, Google has already started hyping Honeycomb (Android 3), which promises support for higher resolutions and a frame-based API that should allow the same application to run on a phone and a tablet, while being perfectly optimised for both.
Honeycomb isn't due until next year, but Google couldn't help showing it off at the D: Dive Into Mobile conference, along with a new version of Google Maps for Mobile that we'll all be able to enjoy in the next few days. But most interesting was how Google expects developers to be able to create one application that will work on multiple form factors.
The idea is that applications will have multiple frames, called "fragments" and the platform can decide how many, and which, fragments to display at the same time. During the demonstration Andy Rubin showed a GMail application displaying the familiar inbox list on the left, and the contents of a selected mail on the right - the same application running on a phone would only show one of the two fragments at a time, in much the same way it already does.
Applications such as the popular TweetDeck already work this way: the desktop version provides columns of tweets related to subjects, the Android version requires the user to swipe between columns, but presents a very consistent experience. The difference with Honeycomb is that it should be possible for the same binary to provide both interfaces.
That won't be suitable for all applications, but quite what proportion we won't know until next year when Honeycomb and its associated APIs are out, along with the plethora of Android tablets we're promised. The Motorola model demonstrated is a prototype – which accounts for the $10,000 price tag – but its the one that's apparently on the desk of all the Android engineers at Google, showing how seriously the chocolate factory is taking the tablet form factor. ®