Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Honeycomb (Android 3.0) gets a workout at Google's developer event; waiting on Motorola XOOM's launch

In an interesting, and sometimes strange, juxtaposition, Google decided to demonstrate it new Honeycomb version of Android for developers on the same day News Corp. rolled out its iPad-only newspaper, The Daily.

Watching the presentation on YouTube presented challenges as my Chrome browser kept crashing. In the end I used Safari and turned off Click-to-Flash in order to follow the presentation. Previously News Corp. had streamed its own event using Flash on its website, but also decided to stream the event with QuickTime for those watching on their iPads or iPhones.

← Google's own version of coverflow, demonstrated today at the Google' Honeycomb developer event.

The biggest problem for me was that as impressive as some of the new features and the performance of the OS is one can't help but notice the lack of an established Android driven tablet. Without this, it will be extremely hard to judge the platform. Not surprisingly, mention was made of Motorola's XOOM, scheduled to launch in about two weeks, and costing around $700.

Without the XOOM to demo Honeycomb, the issue of scalability will remain an issue -- that is, how well do older app scale for tablets. When the iPad launched Steve Jobs took great pains to say that all existing iPhone app would work well on the iPad; well they may have worked, but it was quickly clear that developers would have to create universal apps or stand-alone iPad apps to truly utilize the iPad's display potential. The presentation today featured a demo of the game Fruit Ninja displayed on a tablet, but demoing a game is much different than a media app.
There were a few hiccups, for instance the attempts to do a video chat, but they were minor and insubstantial. More importantly for Android owners was the news that the web-based version of the Android Market is now live. This was highly anticipated by Android fans, though I still find that the new online store pales in comparison to the iTunes App Store -- and I'm no fan of that one thanks to the clutter and lack of drill-down indexing!

Louis Gump, the former veep of mobile at The Weather Channel, represented CNN as Google's media partner. Gump demoed their Android app and their news-social networking feature called iReport. Along with Bart Decrem from Disney Mobile who demoed their new Android versions of games such as Tap Tap Revenge, one was struck that Google was still playing catch up: here were apps ported over from their iOS equivalents, while earlier in the day Rupert Murdoch was setting up to demonstration a brand new tablet only news product that will be available exclusively on the iPad for at least six months if not longer.

That being said, there is no doubt that Motorola's XOOM will benefit mightily from running Honeycomb rather than an older version of Android. Two weeks from now early owners of this new tablet will finally start to compare and contrast Google's tablet OS versus what Apple has been able to offer since last April -- no more canned video demos, it will be the real thing, on a real tablet.