Google released a video today showing off the upcoming version of the Android operating system, called Honeycomb--and it is indeed just for tablets.
After a premature release earlier in the day, Andy Rubin, Google's vice president of engineering in charge of Android, published the video officially on a blog post. Here's what he had to say about Android 3.0:
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 multitasking, 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.
The video shows a very different look than what you'll see on an Android phone.
The interface is still Android, for example showing widgets and app icons and multiple home screens. But the widgets are often larger and more elaborate, as you might expect for an OS that, as the video asserts, is "built entirely for tablet."
Also shown in the video are a new wall-of-video look for browsing YouTube, a tablet-optimized Gmail app, full-screen Gmail video chat, the new 3D Google Maps interface, an e-book application for Google e-books, and "best-in-class Web browsing," including multiple tabs in a very Chrome-like interface.
Missing from at least some of the shots is Android's ubiquitous notification bar. It's not clear whether it can be hidden or if the video just doesn't show it.
Honeycomb's tablet focus was expected since September, when W.P. Wong, head of Samsung Mobile's product-planning team, said Honeycomb "is specifically optimized for a different type of tablet. This emphasizes mobility," during the launch of the company's Android-powered Galaxy Tab.
Android has the potential to challenge Apple's iPad, with the Samsung tablet so far the leading contender and many more challenges expected to show at CES this week. But the iPad already has a major market lead, a famously polished interface, and a wealth of tablet-optimized applications.
Updated at 3:12 p.m., 4:10 p.m. PT, and 5:06 p.m. with further images and video.