What’s Hiding Inside Android’s Honeycomb?

Remember the holographic message Princess Leia sent asking Obi Wan Kenobi for help in the movie “Star Wars”” That’s apparently what Android 3.0, code-named “Honeycomb,” will make mobile communications seem like.

“There will be heavy use of 3D-like interfaces throughout to create the impression of a hologram,” Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told LinuxInsider.

Honeycomb was demoed at the Consumer Electronics Show, held last week in Las Vegas.

“It has wowed people,” Will Stofega, a program director at IDC, told LinuxInsider.

In addition to 3D, it will run Google Maps 5 and feature the latest Google Mobile innovations.

Google did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

Why Some Think Honeycomb’s the Bee’s Knees

Google has developed a new, virtual holographic user interface for Honeycomb, Andy Rubin, vice president of engineering at Google, wrote on the Google Mobile blog.

The operating system lets users customize the home screen and has richer, more interactive widgets. Google has added powerful upgrades to the browser, including tabbed browsing, form auto-fill, incognito mode, and syncing with Google Chrome bookmarks.

“The Web browser upgrade brings many of the features in Google Chrome to tablets,” Dmitriy Molchanov, an analyst at the Yankee Group, told LinuxInsider.

Honeycomb will be able to access Google Maps 5, which has 3D interactions. Further, it apparently has new on-screen navigation controls.

The operating system also includes Google Talk, a feature that lets users conduct video and voice chat with people using any Google Talk-enabled device, whether it’s a PC or a tablet.

Google will use Google Talk’s video chat feature to compete with Apple’s FaceTime and Skype’s new mobile video calling feature, Molchanov said.

Feeling the Force at Google?

With Honeycomb, Google is moving toward the kind of holographic communications we saw in the “Star Wars” movies.However, getting there will take some time.

One step along the way is 3D mapping, which Honeycomb has made possible, Molchanov said. “The demo I saw at CES 2011 mapped out the width and height of skyscrapers and major city landmarks,” he remarked.

That capability lies in Google Maps 5.

“With Google Maps 5, they’ve moved from a tiled map environment to vectors,” Jeff Orr, a principal analyst at ABI Research, told LinuxInsider. This lets Google store less data. Meanwhile, computing power on mobile devices has increased.

The combination of these two factors offers seamless panning of maps, Orr said. It also lets users rotate the display to see elevations of buildings.

One of the first uses for Honeycomb’s 3D capabilities will be gaming, Victoria Fodale, a senior analyst at ABI Research, told LinuxInsider. Another is movies.

“I saw a demo of ‘Shrek’ on a mobile screen and it was pretty good,” Fodale remarked.

However, Honeycomb won’t offer full 3D capability for awhile, IDC’s Stofega stated.

“You’d probably need some sort of projection like a pico screen, but that hasn’t happened yet in tablets,” Stofega explained.

Tablet Love

“We consider Honeycomb to be the first OS designed specifically from the ground up for tablets, maximizing and redefining the tablet experience,” Nectar Kirkiris, a device product lead at Motorola, told LinuxInsider.

Motorola demoed its Xoom tablet at CES 2011. Kirkiris said the device will be launched on the Verizon Wireless network in the first quarter of this year. The Xoom is “optimized for all of Honeycomb’s features and capabilities,” Kirkiris added.

“I think Motorola will introduce the beta level product in March, which is when it said it’ll bring out the Xoom, but it will probably fully ramp post-August,” Enderle said. “There may be an early spike in sales after May if the March offering holds up.”

LG and T-Mobile also announced a tablet at CES 2011 that will run the Honeycomb operating system — the G-Slate.

Several other vendors also announced at CES 2011 that they’d build tablets running Honeycomb that would be available later this year. One is Acer, with its Iconia Tab A500. Another is Toshiba, which announced an as-yet-unnamed device. A third is Asus, which demoed the Eee Pad Slider, the Eee Pad Transformer and the Eee Pad MeMo, all running Honeycomb.

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