Google’s big press event today was the announcement of Honeycomb, the tablet-oriented version of the incredibly popular Android mobile OS. They also announced – and launched! – a new Android market app store.
The announcement was originally scheduled for 2 hours, but wrapped up in less than 1. In that time, they covered a lot of expected features and a few interesting new ones. Notably:
- Buttonless interface. This was expected, and appeared to perform quite well.
- A new UI button on the home screen specifically for multitasking. It provides visual previews of apps running in the background.
- Widgets have been enhanced with collections of data; for example, they showed a bookmarks widget.
- The notification system has been beefed up to be less intrusive and to provide more information. Contact notifications include photos.
- A new animation framework that is demonstrably fast and incredibly smooth, especially when zooming.
- Renderscript, a feature that allows for high performance interactive 3D graphics; they showed an impressive wall of YouTube videos.
They spent some time talking about apps as well. The exciting app news is that existing Android apps will work and work well on Honeycomb tablets, and without the pixel doubling that you see on iPhone apps running on the iPad.
The other big news of the day was the new Android Market app store, live now at http://market.android.com. Visually it looks very similar to the Chrome Web Store, and it has a very Kindle store-like over the air install feature. You can browse the Android Market on a laptop, find a free app or buy a paid app, click Install, and it will be sent over to any associated Android device that you have registered with the Marketplace. Anyone who has shopped the old Android marketplace should be breathing a sigh of relief at that!
Other new features in the Marketplace are a recommendations system which is smart enough to recognize you already own an app when a friend recommends it to you, and in-app transactions.
What they didn’t bring up was the long talked-about Google music service, which many people had assumed would be the major announcement of the day.
As a final note, with the new Marketplace being so new, I’ve had some difficulties using it. It seems to be a popular destination right now. If you have the opportunity to check it out, feel free to tell us about your experience in the comments!