Google seems to realize that most people can’t keep up with all the developments around its Android mobile-device operating software. So this morning, it’s inviting a whole lot of press to an event promising to provide “an in-depth look at Honeycomb, Android ecosystem news and hands-on demos.” I’ll be liveblogging the highlights starting at 10 a.m. Pacific. You can also watch it on YouTube.
Honeycomb is Google’s code-name for the next version of Android, which to date has been used mainly on smart phones. This new version is expected to provide new features for tablets, though as AllThingsD’s Ina Fried reports, it’s intended to work on all kinds of mobile devices, not just tablets. Still, for the time being, it’s clearly aimed at Apple’s iPad. Here’s how Google described it in a blog post in early January:
Honeycomb is the next version of the Android platform, designed from the ground up for devices with larger screen sizes, particularly tablets. We’ve spent a lot of time refining the user experience in Honeycomb, and we’ve developed a brand new, truly virtual and holographic user interface. Many of Android’s existing features will really shine on Honeycomb: refined multi-tasking, elegant notifications, access to over 100,000 apps on Android Market, home screen customization with a new 3D experience and redesigned widgets that are richer and more interactive. We’ve also made some powerful upgrades to the web browser, including tabbed browsing, form auto-fill, syncing with your Google Chrome bookmarks, and incognito mode for private browsing.
But a number of Android watchers assume Google has more in mind than rehashing what it has already hinted at, so they’re speculating that Google could announce a new version of the Android Market, Google’s app marketplace, or debut the long-rumored Google Music. We’ll find out in about an hour.
UPDATE: Essentially, the new version of Android helps Google catch up to Apple iPad capabilities, with a couple of improvements over iPad such as 3-D Google Maps. Plus, the new Android Market Web store should get developers, who have been complaining about problems getting exposure via the market, more jazzed about doing new applications. So new Android tablets are likely to be much more competitive than current ones, such as Samsung’s Galaxy Tab, which apparently has had lower sell-through than expected as well as higher returns. No Google Music beyond a small hint, but a lot of pretty developer-oriented features, such as 3-D capabilities, payment options, and the like. The earth isn’t shattering, but no doubt Android is likely to continue its momentum into a tablet market that’s likely to become a major computing category this year.
And we’re underway. Andy Rubin, head of Android, says they will show a demo of Motorola’s Xoom tablet and show off new features of Android Market. “With open source, you don’t really know what people are going to do with it,” he says. So Android is popping up in all kinds of places.