Android chief Andy Rubin was on stage at D: Dive into Mobile and showed off a prototype tablet from Motorola that was running Android 3.0 Honeycomb. Honeycomb is the successor to Android 2.3 Gingerbread and from the quick glance provided by Rubin, it will be a nice improvement over the current version of the OS. Rubin failed to give a concrete date but did confirm it was coming next year.
The biggest change in Honeycomb will be the much needed support for tablets. Finally, the Samsung Galaxy Tab will get a version of Android designed for its screen size and resolution. Along with a new OS will come with a new SDK that will let developers build applications optimized from the ground up for tablets. All that lovely screen real estate available on a 7-inch or a 10-inch screen can be used in its entirety by an application.
As part of this tablet optimization, Android 3.0 will also include a new set of APIs that will allow an application to split its view into multiple views. On a tablet, these panes will be side-by-side; while on a handset, they will be one after another, presumably in a layout that is similar to the metro UI on Windows Phone.
This new multi-pane view was demoed by Rubin when he showed off the new interface for Gmail that will be available as part of Honeycomb. Rubin showed a two-pane layout for reading your email that is reminiscent of the mail application on the iPad. It also reminds me of the new conversation view that is available on Twitter’s web interface. Unlike Twitter, the Gmail application was not collapsible.
Honeycomb will also offer a new desktop re-designed to take advantage of screen real estate. Android 3.0 will retain the familiar icons but the grid layout may be different. Being tablet-optimized, the app grid, launcher, and the desktop widgets will be able to accommodate a tablet-sized display.
Rubin also noted that Android was designed, in part, for the tech enthusiast or the wife of a tech enthusiast. As a result, the mobile OS is not as user-friendly as it could be, but Google is working on it. According to Rubin, future versions of Android will simplify the interface by combining multiple functions into one. Future versions will lose some of the menu options at the bottom and possibly buttons. The Motorola tablet Rubin showed off lacked the traditional menu, home, back, and search buttons typically seen on Android devices. All this Honeycomb information, almost makes you want to jump right over Gingerbread and dig into the Honeycomb.