On Monday during the D: Dive Into Mobile conference, Google’s Andy Rubin surprised the audience with a prototype tab provided by Motorola sporting Android 3.0 aka Honeycomb. Rubin said the OS is slated for a 2011 release and will primarily serve as an operating system for tablets (rather than smartphones).
The reveal coincides previous insider talk indicating that Android 2.3 Gingerbread was geared for smartphones while Android 3.0 Honeycomb was specifically designed for larger tablet devices. It also backs up reports that many tablet manufacturers are waiting on Honeycomb’s release before bringing their products to the market.
As briefly seen during the presentation, Android Honeycomb provides a more desktop-like experience, removing the typical Android buttons and offering a sharp, highly customized presentation. As for the hardware performing in the background, very litle is known about the Motorola protoype other than its use of a Nvidia dual-core 3D processor (Tegra 2?) and video chat capabilities. The size of the screen appears to be about 7 inches, meaning it compares to RIM’s BlackBerry Playbook more than Apple’s iPad.
Also introduced by Rubin at the presentation was a vector-based example of Google Maps 5.0– the next version of Maps that’s expected to hit smartphones within days. Without getting into the tablet details, Rubin quickly jumped in on the Moto tab and showed that users can zoom in on a city block like normal, however the app begins to render the buildings rather than pull up satellite images.
While I’m curious to see how this will work on smartphones, the Nvidia processor began to generate shadows beautifully as Rubin moved the camera in closer to the ground. At one point, he panned up and the buildings sprouted almost as if he opened up a pop-up book. He could also move about the city skyline without having to wait for the app to load the next “zone,” basically allowing a free-roaming experience. Google Maps 5.0 just begs for 3D hardware support, and at the rate that tech innovation is currently going, we can probably expect it from Google in the near future.