Motorola is launching an Android tablet based on Google's next-generation Android operating system, code-named Honeycomb, which will be optimized for tablets.
Google Android creator Andy Rubin demonstrated the device Dec. 6 on stage at the D: Dive into Mobile show in San Francisco.
The thin, light-looking machine appeared to be closer to the 9.7-inch screen size of Apple's iPad than the 7-inch display of Samsung's Galaxy Tab, though no such dimensions were confirmed.
A Motorola spokesperson told eWEEK "we are working on both a 7- and 10-inch Android tablet and intend to introduce a tablet in the first half of 2011."
"We want to make sure that any tablet we deliver is compelling and competitive in the marketplace, and we will only deliver a tablet when that occurs."
Rubin did confirm the device features a "dual-core Nvidia 3D processor," which should provide solid 3D graphics for gaming and multimedia apps on the tablet.
This makes sense; Rubin and his team just introduced Android 2.3, the Gingerbread build, which is slated to appear first on the Samsung Nexus S Dec. 16 from T-Mobile and Best Buy.
Rubin called up the tablet screen quickly using virtual icons on the screen--there are no hard, physical buttons on the device--briefly displaying Google Talk video chat icons before launching the next version of Google Maps for Android.
Slated to launch on Android handsets within days, the new Google Maps app leverages the tablet's 3D graphics processor to show buildings and their shadows as the user zooms zooms to ground level. Rubin used two fingers to tilt the 3D map of San Francisco on the screen and rotate the view.
"These guys really know 3D and have been great to work with," Rubin said of Nvidia.
The new Google Maps for Android app, Rubin explained, employs vectors instead of pre-rendered tiles to dynamically render content.
Previous iterations of the app feature preset tiles, which created latency when users navigated around the app.
With the new Maps, content will be drawn in real time on smartphones and, eventually, tablets. Users will be able to download their entire route in a few short seconds. Rubin said this app will be available on platforms such as Apple's iOS in the future.
Rubin also showed off Gmail on the Motorola tablet. This app resembled the Gmail for iPad app, with messages in the left pane and e-mail content on the right.
Rubin confirmed the Motorola tablet, the first for the company, wasn't "due out for awhile now."
If the Motorola tablet does appear in 2011 as expected, it will launch nearly a year after Apple blew open the gates to the tablet kingdom with its iPad.
The machine, which Samsung made available from all four major U.S. carriers, has sold more than 1 million units to date, buoyed by strong U.S. Black Friday sales.
Motorola, which just saw its Android handset lead eclipsed by Samsung in the United States, will have its work cut out for it trying to catch up.