Android Honeycomb shown off, new Maps client demoed

Android news was flowing at today's D: Dive Into Mobile conference, with a sneak-peek at the next version of the Android OS, along with a new version of Google's Maps client for Android.

Engadget reports Google co-founder Andy Rubin gave the conference a first look at an unnamed, heretofore unknown Motorola tablet running Honeycomb, the next iteration of Android. Details are scarce, but images captured by Engadget show a more ''desktop-like'' screen layout, with app icons laid out in a grid and what appeared to be a taskbar of some sort at the bottom of the screen. It was also noted that the tablet, which Mr Rubin said was a prototype, had no buttons of any kind visible.

The on-stage demo was the public's first look at the next version of Google's delectable mobile OS, which is set for release ''sometime next year'' according to Mr Rubin. The top Googler also left the door open for Honeycomb to appear on devices other than tablets, after conference co-host Walt Mossberg asked him whether Honeycomb was ''a version that happens to work on tablet'' or was exclusive to tablets, with Mr Rubin's reply: ''It's a bit of both''.

Mr Rubin used the Motorola tablet to debut version 5 of Google Maps for Mobile, with the biggest addition being dynamic map drawing, which will bring a 3D experience to Maps. Instead of the flat, 2D maps currently available to Android Maps users, version 5 will add full-3D buildings to more than 100 cities, along with the ability to pan and tilt to gain a different perspective on an area.

Google will also deliver one of the most requested features for its mapping client - offline caching. As the name suggests, Maps 5 will cache frequently travelled-to and searched locations and users can change their route in Google Navigation while offline, provided the route maps have previously been downloaded.

Most modern Android phones will be able to use the new Maps client, which Mr Rubin said would be available ''in coming days''. The compatibility list at this point includes the Galaxy S, Droid original, X, 2 and Incredible, HTC Evo, HTC G2 and the newly-announced Nexus S. Other handsets will be able to use varying aspects of the new client, depending on their hardware capabilities.

Image Credits: Engadget

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thenetavenger said,
2 Things odd about this...

1) 2.2 of Android allows for SD installation of Applications, (Yes you can install 'more' apps with a rooted and updated ROM, but a lot of larger apps already support the install to SD feature.)
2) Applications always have had access to and used SD card storage for data and caching, so even if the application can't be moved to the SD card, the data it pulls can easily be stored on the SD card and not the main internal memory.

(This is one lesson that MS learned from watching Android, as the SD space and internal space are merged as one memory pool. Which Android also learned, hence the install to SD ability in the latest releases.)
To be fair, installing to SD only works if the application/game supports it and there will still be data left on the internal memory even if it's supported. It sucks major bawls, I'm down to < 20 MB.

chadlachlanross said,
I saw the new map app a while ago.... that was photoshopped onto the Android by Verizon. Made me laugh.

That was the iOS Maps app, not this one.

Finally, been waiting ofr this feature of a while... ~Glad about the offline caching, making the trips to europe a little easier now hopefully. Should work on Nexus One aswell????

Shahrad said,
Finally, been waiting ofr this feature of a while... ~Glad about the offline caching, making the trips to europe a little easier now hopefully. Should work on Nexus One aswell????

The offline caching is really good, but something I was shocked to find wasn't already being done on my trip in August. I assumed that when I added a navigation route to Las Vegas through some back country that the base maps for the trip would automatically be availble when cell service wasn't available. However, only the general route was cached, and not any the of the map data.

Now if they would add in other Navigation features that are standard/essential on dedicated GPS devices. Like showing your current MPH, more lane information, and local speed limit signs. (Something that a navigon from 3 years ago does rather well, and is quite handy when venturing through tiny towns with speed traps and speed limit signs that are less than obvious.)

=) much better app since its last revison, but i dont use a andriod so i dont understand the full concept of the mail app on froyo

this is going to be a complete mess if they start leap frogging it's gonna confuse crap out of people 2.x smart phones 3.x tablets 4.x smart phones 5.x tablets and so on.

Digitalx said,
this is going to be a complete mess if they start leap frogging it's gonna confuse crap out of people 2.x smart phones 3.x tablets 4.x smart phones 5.x tablets and so on.

I don't thinks so. It's almost as I thought it might be. However I don't think it's going to be exactly like you are saying. So we all heard the news yesterday that Gingerbread is out. Which technically speaking is for smartphones and not tablets. According to Google, Froyo (2.2) is not meant for tablets and neither is Gingerbread (2.3).

So what I see happening is one of two things:
Scenario 1
* Smartphones will remain on 2.X (so the next version of smartphones will be Ice Cream will have a version of 2.4)
* Tablets will remain on 3.X (so whatever code name for J will be [lets just call it "Jello"] will have a version of 3.1)

Scenario 2
* Gingerbread will be the last line of the 2.X series of operating systems for the smartphones and Honeycomb will also be the last of the 3.X series of operating systems for the tablets. (However I see one or two updates with no code name for the tablets and it will still be a later iteration of Honeycomb. Just like Eclair was both version 2.0 & 2.01).
* Ice Cream will be a 4.X series that merge both smartphones and tablets operating systems. With that comes new hardware requirements for smartphones. Maybe a standard 4" (Evo 4G screen size) screen will be part of the minimum requirements, etc...

I see Scenario 2 as the likely path for Google's Android Operating system line. They are introducing Honeycomb just to have something that they [Google] can say is meant for Tablets and with that has to cary a new version number.

P.S. I can't wait for the Motorola "Pad". Hopefully it's Droid branded. And I can't wait for the HTC Incredible HD. Hopefully that will have Gingerbread.

Edited by UndergroundWire, Dec 7 2010, 5:04pm :

UnderGroundWire said,

The problem is more fragmentation. Even in just the phone class of devices, we have new devices being sold with 1.6, 2.1, 2.2 and some device not capable of features in the newer builds or older devices not having enough GPU or CPU power for basic features in the newer releases.
(This is why Android should have mandatory minimum hardware requirments for each generation.)

Even if you look at iPhones, which is very controlled, fragmentation exists just in the lack of hardware feature of the early generations or when Apple decides not to back port features for the older models.

In the Android world this gets even worse, very fast. As you not only have the various device capabilities and the various version of Android running around, but you also have the MFR adaptations for hardware and customized UIs that when the MFR or Carrier doesn't want to fiddle with an older model, it will be left without updates.

Google and Android should have controlled not only the hardware minimums better, but also took lead on providing a base update that they roll out independantly of MFR or Carrier.

(This is one thing WP7 is doing right, as they are somewhere between Android and iOS with the potential to keep a more consistent experience for users because Microsoft is handling the builds and updates. Even just the hardware support, if you look at WP7, the updated drivers that MS produced for the Snapdragon moved its GPU operations from lackluster to performing faster than most other CPU/GPU handset chipsets, after Android MFRs had already written off the Snapdragon GPU as crap, when it truly was a matter of a properly coded driver.)

In the end, the Open nature of Android will eventually hurt it with fragmentation, just like old timers like myself have watched happen to UNIX time and time again, and even Linux time and time again.

Windows is extremely customizable, more than more OSS kiddies realize, just it takes someone that can read assembly and machine code instead of having the original code in C or C++ that is easier to read for novices. And this is why the OS base offers a lot of consistency, without the fragmentation.

(For example: Even without pulling apart OS drivers and executables, simple registry switches are available for a lot of things, from replacing the UI shell to even booting Windows into the BSD subsystem instead of Win32, something that even with a complete distribution overhaul, is not even possible on Linux as the kernel is too limited in layered client/server subsystem technologies. And even then the OS remains WindowsNT and still can fire up Win32 applications or Explorer if the user needs it for consistency. Even modifications for concurrent multi-user support on a the desktop is just changing a few bytes is a couple of DLLs, and it still remains Windows with a solid consistent feature base.)

Microsoft seems to have the same plan of execution for WP7 with newer versions also having a set of standards for hardware and software features when it rolls around in a year or two, and like WP7 has now. (And even though WP7 is mandating managed code with Silverlight and XNA for general consumer applications, Microsoft is not restricting the device, as they have been working on side-loading applications before the 'semit-hack' that was released a couple of weeks ago.

The reason they were already doing this is for business customers that are building WP7 solutions and have no need for the Market and also may want to do native development and not have to meet the standards that the Microsoft Market and the managed code nature of the OS requires.

Edited by thenetavenger, Dec 7 2010, 7:29pm :

thenetavenger said,

I'm sick of all this fragmentation talk. Not just by you, but by most "Tech" sites. Let me sum it up for you. When you buy a Windows machine, and you go with a netbook, do you expect you'll have the same results as your workstation at work?

Fragmentation seems like a genuine concert to most techies and "geeks" however let's talk about your average consumer. If they buy a low end Android phone they will fall into two categories:

1) They don't know any better and when they go on the Android Market to search for something, it won't appear. Or an older version appears on the Market. Either way they don't know any better.

2) They know what they got and don't expect much. They won't complain because it's like buying a low end Windows machine and expecting you can do GIS or CADD work on it.

As for you or definitely someone like me. We know better. We know we want a XX GHz processor and XX ROM/RAM and it will be capable of playing Angry Birds 2, etc.. So we will naturally buy a top of the line phone.

Fragmentation only exists to those who are aware. And even then, if you are smart, it's a non issue. I would love to have Google Earth on my Netbook. But alas, I have to only use it on my Xeon Dual Processor at work or my Core i7 machine at home. You know what I am saying here?

Also, for now, WP7 is not a contender what so ever. Give it a year and we shall see. It took Android to get to version 2.0 before there was any buzz on it. But quite frankly I don't see WP7 ever making the top three smartphone choice for most consumers. They have a poor start here in the U.S. with two networks; where the G1 had better sales on 1 crappy (my opinion don't flame me) network.

Time will tell but I can honestly say I have a great track record for technology (except for that whole Blu-ray vs HD-DVD grrr) <--See, I can admit it when I'm wrong.

Or, the next version works on both tablets and mobiles ... but has a slightly different feature set available. Waaaaaaay simpler.

UndergroundWire said,

I'm sick of all this fragmentation talk. Not just by you, but by most "Tech" sites. Let me sum it up for you...

Your argument is very valid; however, it doesn't reflect the entire picture of what can happen when things fragment.

On the consumer side of things, your argument has a lot of merit as long as the product is more of an appliance or closed feature system. (i.e. Its features don't update or change during the product's lifespan.) And in this regard fragmentation means nothing as you correctly point out, as a Microwave or a Walkman that the consumer is getting XYZ features will be happy with XYZ features and never look back.

The problem is that Android phones are not dumb phones, they are OSes running on a phone sized device. So as new features and updates are made available or even fixes are made to the applications and the OS platform, users can't be assured that their phone and version of Android will ever get updated. This is where it starts to fragment for the single consumer.

When you add in the collective and social nature of phones, as consumer A realizes that his friend consumer B has new features of an App they use or doesn't have to fight with a problem that is fixed in consumer B's version of the phone, then consumer A again gets hit with fragmentation issues and it affects them and any other friends that get added into the mix as consumer C might have a newer version again, and less bugs and more features on Apps that neither A or B can use.

If you watch, this is already happening a lot, as the demand for 2.2 updates hit over the summer. It also happens on phones from the same MFR, if Consumer A has a Zio 6000 from Cricket and Consumer B has a Zio 6000 from Sprint, one is running 1.6 and can't do Google Virtual Earth and the other is running 2.1 and can. So een when the two friends are holding the same phone using Android, they are fragmented in what they can and can't do with their phones.

The other side of the fragmentation issue that is overlooked is the MFR and carrier side, as fragmentation can be even more painful to them than the consumer, which costs a lot of tech and development time or forces them to lock their devices at an Android version and push the fragmentation issues to their customers, which often angers the customer. (Again look at who did and didn't get 2.2 updates over the summer and how well the phone owners responded to this.)

Apple is its own ecosystem, and like I mentioned before they even have some fragmentation with customers being angry that iOS 4 is slow on their device or is missing features or is not even available for their device. And this is especially angering when iOS could be optimized and made to work on prior generation phones and work better than it does. In this Apple expects their 'fans' to be forgiving as they have in the past.

WP7 is approaching all of this like Windows runs on a PC. This means the OS will be consistent and updated from one place, less work for carries and MFRs and less confusion for customers.

As for fragmentation in general, on closed or applicance devices, it is a moot argument. However, on living OSes and true 'platforms' it can easily become a monster. Take my examples above on Android, and look at how young it is, and we are already seeing 'fragmentation' issues.

Next add in the Android tablet market and ChromeOS and Google is going to be poking themselves in the eye if they don't reign in the current fragmenation issues.

Having been around a while, you can literally sit back at how a platform is handled and predict where it will be in a few years. I have seen UNIX fragment, pull itself together and then lose sight of the problems and fragment again and again and again.

However if you look in the OSS or UNIX world, you can see successful models that didn't fragment because the vendors and developers had a clue. Take X Windows for example, after it hit a level of functionality, fragmentation was minimialized. Or take OpenGL that keeps consistency and legacy along side with tapping into modern GPU and computing models. Both are good examples of technologies that aren't horribly fragmented. And this is even with OpenGL having to deal with a lot of versions and hardware support beyond what the early libraries were designed to do.

Right now, Linux is fragmented and getting worse, the Desktop Managers on Linux are fragmented and keep splitting off and getting worse. Until this is stopped and some level of standards are implemented, Linux will never be a serious 'platform' beyond the basic kernel and server services. Which would have been ok 20 years ago, but a modern OS is more than just a solid kernel and services set.

Android is fragmented for other reasons, beyond the Linux kernel, as at least Google did reign in the Linux kernel and made a consistent baseline to work from, even though the nature of the Linux kernel can create some scary version dependencies, but modders are the ones to notice this.

However, Androids Application platform that is a JAVA based in concept, but fragmented from JAVA, which also has its own fragmentation issues. Then add on the unstructured growing of features and technologies needed in the Google JAVA libraries for applications, and this fragmentation is growing. There are sometimes that when designing a platform API that the developers should literally throw out old concepts and start with the smarter concepts of the day, which Google will not do, because it is not easy, and they like to use what they can to save development expenses. If Google had to design the kernel or even the base JAVA concepts or their own variation of OpenGL for Android, it would never exist.

However, if Google was smart they would have took 'ideas' and implmented around them, instead of taking existing technologies and tryiing to make their 'ideas' fit into technologies that were never designed for what they want to do.

This is an old example, but when Microsoft was working on OS/2 and IBM wanted to keep the existing kernel technology and still be a 286 based OS, Microsoft didn't give in and took a huge leap of faith that they could build something better. This is where NT enters, and instead of borrowing from existing technologies, it borrowed concepts from existing techologies and several theoretical concepts of the time.

For example instead of an either or model on how the kernel handles calls, it does a bit of both with abstracted API layers that can shove data hard when needed and yet not lock the kernel itself. It has a client/server model, that abstracts the upper OS layers where Win32/Win64/OS/2/Win16/DOS/Posix all ran as equal subsystems that NT is agnostic to.

However, the biggest challenge and the most brilliant aspect of the NT design model is the move to an Object based OS, where instead of textual and generic I/O like UNIX uses. They put in place a very basic but extendible Object model that created an OS that can easily adapt as new technology and features are added, they can also be done in a way that doesn't break things. Look at the WDDM in Vista for just a taste of an example where the OS Object model paid off on implementing what was a massive featuer without having to break the current XPDM.

And all of this stuff is possible and happens because of the Object model in NT, where things are treated like Objects and instead of 'expecting' a featuer or dependant method to be available, the internal calls ask what the 'Object' can do. So things can expose new featuers and not break with an object changes.

UndergroundWire said,

I'm sick of all this fragmentation talk. Not just by you, but by most "Tech" sites. Let me sum it up for you...


So, why is this relevant? Well Google should have realized that instead of slapping JAVA crap together, they could have built a simple but robust object framework that would grow easily with the OS and not break crap along the way.

With WP7, by dropping the mobile Win32 API platform, Microsoft was able to take some smart existing API contructs from .NET and create an OS model with both Silverlight and XNA that are both built using fully object 'oriented' languages, and work fully as a full object 'oriented' platform for applications.

Oriented is quoted above, because Android and iOS only offer Object 'based' design (some exceptions), but more importantly they only offer an Object 'Based' API platform for applications.

This is why a listbox in WP7 can be mangled by the developer to do things that are nothing like a listbox, yet the OS still knows it is a listbox and in 'return' deals with it properly.

On Android's JAVA libraries or iOS's Cocoa, the listbox would have to be broken to changed this much and even if it wasn't fully broken from the listbox class, reverse inheritence doesn't exist or has to be broken. Which means that featuers the OS offers to the listbox are no longer present properly.

The sad part of this, is JAVA is capable of true object oriented programming, but Google's application impmentation of their JAVA destroys this. For example the HTML email viewer is broken from its class, so you can't do things like pinch to zoom and you can can't even copy text from your email. And if the object model was fullly object oriented, this would be a natural feature that the OS would offer to the HTML class displaying the email without any additional developer work. (This is where Google is fragmented their own platform for developers,and is just stupid.)

Stuff like this is also why developers somewhat love development for WP7, as they don't have to create a trick pony over and over, nor do they have to replicate features the OS provides to the classes even if they want to heavily modify the class.

Wow, sorry for the long post, just kind of rambled through fragmentation from the consumer to the MFRs and developers on to where Google is blowing it and needs a good slap to bring themselves around before they do lose developers and MFRs and consumers.

Anyway, I enjoyed your post, good comments and good thoughts all around.

Kirkburn said,
Or, the next version works on both tablets and mobiles ... but has a slightly different feature set available. Waaaaaaay simpler.

By next version do you mean Ice Cream? Because that's what I already said.

thenetavenger said,

Don't get me wrong. You make excelent points from a developer point of view. For the developer, fragmentation can suck. However, as the Android OS gets more and more popular, developers have to develop for it in order for the products to reach all potential users. The bottom line is the average consumer will never know what really goes on behind the scene.

Take a company like Rovio for example. They develop a game called Angry Birds for iOS and Android OS. I have played that game on my Android Smartphone and on an iOS device. The game looks and behaves exactly the same. And when they finally release it for WP7 (early 2011), it will be no different than the iOS or Android versions. As long as the end user gets what they want, they won't see any differences between which smartphone OS is better.

Also comparing Chrome OS to Android shouldn't be another case for fragmentation. It's like comparing Windows 7 to Windows Phone 7. They are meant to be different for there purposes. But I see what you are saying. Releasing to similar sized products (tablets vs netbooks) can confuse the average customer. One may expect a Android Market on a Chrome OS netbook.

Off topic: For a large screen mobile computing device, I see tablets as the future over netbooks. I'm sorta surprised that Google has any interest in Netbooks with Chrome OS. Somehow I see this failing but I have to play around with it first before I draw any conclusions.

Excellent points by the way.

UndergroundWire said,
By next version do you mean Ice Cream? Because that's what I already said.
Yep. Tbh, I think any other choice makes little sense.

I don't know about you guys but that bar on honeycomb made it look as something I have running on my home pc. Windows 7.

"...Google co-founder Andy Rubin"

Andy Rubin is not the co-founder of Google. He's VP of Engineering and oversees the development of Android. He co-founded Android (not Google)

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