Google had an event yesterday to showcase Android Honeycomb, an operating system tailored specifically for Tablet computers. This operating system was built up from scratch to exploit the capabilities of tablets such as large screen, powerful processors and graphical capabilities.
Andy Rubin and Hugo Barra showcased Android honeycomb infront of few selected audience. They even livestreamed the event. Take a peak at the recordings of the event if you have time. The Honeycomb SDK is also officially available for download here.
What's new in Honeycomb?
Completely new UI optimized for tablets: Honeycomb makes use of large screen real estates available on tablets. The screen sizes on the phones range from 2.4 inch to 4 inch on most phones. The screen sizes on tablets range from 7 inch to 12 inch on most tablets. Honeycomb brings together much needed features such as multi-tasking, rich notifications, Home screen customization, Widgets. Honeycomb tablets will have a global system bar at the bottom of the screen, much akin to windows taskbar and system tray that we witness in windows operating system. Notifications, key shortcuts and major global functions are accessible from this area. There will be an action bar at the top right hand corner. This action bar would be contextual to the application or the screen and will have navigation functions and other functions embedded.
Customizable Home Screens: There are a total of 5 customizable home screens on honeycomb. Each homescreen follows a grid layout so that you can position the widgets and apps in any order that you would like. You can place application shortcuts, widgets, web content, search box, media files, books gallery on home screen.
Honeycomb has introduced Recent apps list on the system bar which will allow you to quickly navigate from one application to another. This facilitates the multi-tasking. The recent apps are displayed as a snapshot with the current state (just like you see in macintosh os).
Improved keyboard: Honeycomb has a much improved keyboard layout optimized for tablets. It also has additional keys, especially 'TAB' key for improved efficiency.
Text Selection, Copy-Paste functionality: You can now easily use multi-touch to drag the selection and handle text functions easily.
Connectivity options: Transferring files from digital cameras or computers would be easier now, thanks to in-built media transfer protocol. You no longer have to mount the USB devices to begin file sharing.
Application fragments: Fragment is something that a developer can use to encapsulate specific application functionality, and then reuse that throughout the application.
Render script: Brand new graphics engine to handle fluid animations and graphical transitions. Renderscript is built for high performance interactive 3D graphics. To demonstrate the power of Renderscript, Hugo showed off the youtube app which has a three dimensional Video wall and the Book store which has a 3D carousel.
Google body was one cool application. Google calls it google maps of human anatomy. It's a really easy way to learn human anatomy. Wish we had something like this when we learnt biology in our school.
After going through the entire stuff that honeycomb has to offer, I still feel that the UI looks boring. Call it google mentality or whatever, but the UI still does not match upto Apple iOS. I am sure honeycomb UI will improve as time goes by...