Google has given the world another peek at "Honeycomb", the next incarnation of Android designed specifically for tablets – such as the upcoming Motorola Xoom – and other devices with larger-than-handset screen sizes.
In a blog post, head Android man Andy Rubin says that Honeycomb – aka Android 3.0 – will use a "truly virtual and holographic user interface". This involves a 3D home screen and a new set of widgets designed to be "more interactive":
Due to arrive on the Motorola Xoom tablet in the first quarter of this year, Honeycomb will what Rubin calls "refined multitasking", "elegant notifications", and an updated web browser that includes tabbed browsing, form auto-fill, the ability to sync with your Google Chrome bookmarks, and an "incognito mode" for browsing on the down-low.
The OS will also offer the new Google Maps 5, which offers 3D tools and offline access; the fledging Google eBooks service; and Google Talk, which includes voice and video chat services.
The current incarnation of Android – version 2.3, aka "Gingerbread" – was released late last year, in tandem with the Nexus S, an Android phone offering the so-called "pure Google experience". In other words, no carrier or handset manufacturer has loaded the thing with their own interface or other custom software.
Yes, Google is working on another operating system for larger-than-handheld devices: Chrome OS. But this is a very different animal, designed to move all data and applications into the browser. Speaking this fall at conference in San Francisco, Google boss Eric Schmidt said that for the time being, Android will be used for touch-based devices and Chrome OS will run keyboard-based machines. The first Chrome OS machines will be netbooks. ®