Seasoned Devs May See a Sweet Deal in Honeycomb

Seasoned Java or Android appdevs looking to create apps on Android 3.0, aka “Honeycomb,” will probably find it relatively easy to get up and running.

“If you’re a Java developer, it’s going to take you three to five days to get to the point where you can be dangerous enough to develop apps,” Marko Gargenta, Android expert at Marakana told LinuxInsider.

Application development on Honeycomb is “conceptually similar to development on the smartphone,” Gargenta added. “For somebody who’s familiar with Android, it may take him less than a day to get into all the intricacies.”

Google staged an in-depth look at Honeycomb Wednesday at the Googleplex in Mountain View, Calif.

Honeycomb has a new 3D rendering engine and other features that could make it a good gaming platform. It’s relatively easy to port games from other platforms to Android 3.0, Thomas Williamson, president of War Drum Studios, told LinuxInsider.

Quick Refresher on Some Honeycomb Features

Honeycomb includes a property-based animation framework that lets app devs add visual effects to their apps. This lets devs use new UI components, new themes, richer widgets and notifications and other new features to create rich and engaging apps for users on devices with larger screens.

The new OS has a built-in graphics library that lets developers hardware-accelerate common 2D rendering operations in their apps.

Further, it has a new 3D graphics engine called “Renderscript” that lets devs add rich 3D scenes.

It also offers HTTP Live streaming support, a pluggable digital rights management framework and easy media file transfer.

Google has also released updates to its ADT Plugin for Eclipse 9.0.0. This has improved drag-and-drop in the editor, with better support for included layouts. It also offers devs an in-editor preview of objects animated with Honeycomb’s new animation framework and visualization of the user interface based on any version of the platform that’s independent of the project target. Further, it has improved rendering with better support for custom views.

Porting Games to Honeycomb

At the Honeycomb event Wednesday, War Drum’s Williamson demod “Monster Madness,” a PS3 game from Southpeak Interactive that Wardrum had ported onto Android 3.0.

“We ported ‘Monster Madness’ in a couple of months, and had the benefit of the Tegra 2 chip that let us port a game originally developed with the Unreal2 engine fairly easily,” Williamson said. However, “as with any type of port, the complexity of the title determines how easy porting will be.”

The Tegra 2 processor gives Honeycomb a distinct advantage in gaming, Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told LinuxInsider.

“Increasingly, Android’s using Nvidia’s Tegra 2 hardware, which lets it outperform much of what’s out there,” Enderle explained.

Honeycomb’s architecture, which lets it run on single or dual-core processors, further boosts its ability as a gaming platform.

“Game development on Android 3.0 is becoming very developer-friendly with the high performance of dual-core processors … and developer tools that allow us to iterate quickly,” Williamson stated. “As a game platform, Android is now competitive with any other platform out there in terms of ease and simplicity of implementation and first-party support.”

Southpeak plans “several releases” of other games ported to the Android 3.0 platform later this year, CEO Melanie Mroz told LinuxInsider. The company publishes interactive games for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, the Wii, the iPhone and Windows PCs.

Slouching Toward a Full SDK

Apps developed for Honeycomb currently can’t be published in the Android market because they’re built on a preview of the operating system’s SDK with non-final APIs and system image.

Still, Android app devs will find it a cinch to work on Honeycomb apps, Marakata’s Gargenta said.

“It’s conceptually similar to developing for smartphones,” Gargenta elaborated. “Somebody who’s familiar with Android may take less than a day to get into all the intricacies.”

There will be 50 devs showing off Honeycomb-optimized apps at the Mobile World Congress, to be held in Barcelona this month, Google said.

In the next few weeks, Google plans to release a final SDK that will fill in any existing gaps in the preview SDK.

“It’s too early to tell what holes there are,” Gargenta said. “We haven’t had the chance to give it a lot of beating yet. But it’s likely any problems will be minor, as with any new software release.”

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