Google Jan. 26 released a preview version of the software-development kit for Android 3.0, a new version of the company's operating system that is intended for tablet computers and other devices with larger screens.
Android 3.0, code-named Honeycomb, offers users a new holographic user interface that focuses on multitasking, notifications, widgets and other features to make devices easy and fun to use.
Google Android engineer Mike Cleron offered a sneak peek of these capabilities on the forthcoming Android 3.0-based Motorola Xoom tablet Jan. 6 at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show. Google Maps 5.0 for Android was particularly attractive on the Xoom, rendering buildings in 3D as Cleron tilted the tablet.
While the Xoom isn't expected to launch until late February, developers now have a preview SDK with which to test their existing applications.
It's only a preview, so Xavier Ducrochet, Android SDK tech lead, cautioned that the APIs and system image aren't final.
Still, developers will be able to familiarize themselves with the new functionality in Android 3.0, which is optimized to run on devices with single- or dual-core processors. The Xoom and forthcoming Toshiba Android tablet, for example, run the dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 processor.
Software highlights include new UI components, new themes, richer widgets and notifications. For example, the keyboard has been redesigned to be more tablet-friendly, and a new system bar located at the bottom of the touch-screen displays notifications and recently used applications.
The new animation framework supports high-performance 2-D, while the new Renderscript engine supports 3-D graphics and a rebuilt Web browser enables tabbed Web browsing.
There are also new APIs for Bluetooth A2DP and HSP to let applications offer audio streaming and headset control. New administration policies for encrypted storage and password expiration will be attractive for IT administrators who want to manage tablets in the workplace.
Applications written with the Android 3.0 preview SDK cannot be published on Google's Android Market, but Ducrochet said developers can expect a final SDK with which to build and publish Android 3.0 applications in the weeks ahead.
Google offers additional images of Android 3.0 in this highlight page. Google hopes the Honeycomb build will make tablets running it more competitive with Apple's iPad than the Samsung Galaxy Tab, the Android 2.2 tablet that has sold 1.5 million units.
Interestingly, Android 3.0 is nipping at the heels of Android 2.3, the Gingerbread-build Google launched for smartphones just a month ago. The Samsung Nexus S is currently the only handset running Android 2.3, which boasts support for near-field communications short-range wireless technology.