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Google Android 3.0 Honeycomb demo on Motorola Xoom

First glimpse of the tablet-enabled version of the Android operating system

Motorola was proudly showing off some of the features of the Android 2.3 Honeycomb tablet operating system on its Xoom tablet.

Although the company was being cagey and would only let us see a video demonstration of Honeycomb running on the tablet, there was enough there to see some of the new features we can expect in this tablet release of Android.

Google Android 3.0 Honeycomb homescreen

The first thing to note is that the hard Android buttons (Home, Back, Menu and Search) have been replaced with soft buttons on Honeycomb. They’re accessed by tapping the bottom of the screen, which pops up a taskbar with the softkeys located on them. This makes more sense on a tablet, where its large size means that switching orientation can make reaching hard buttons more difficult.

Google has also revamped the home screen, making more of the higher resolutions of tablets. In particular, Widgets can be better placed: on other Android tablets, it’s impossible to place some Widgets centrally, giving the homescreen an odd appearance.

Google Android 3.0 Honeycomb Gmail

Some of the apps have been updated, too. Gmail has had a makeover to look more like the iPad version, with a preview pane running next to the list of incoming emails. The YouTube app also makes more of the space making it easier to see related videos. A new Google Reader app will connect into the new bookstore, allowing you to download and read books. The browser also looks more like the desktop version with Tabs running across the top.

Google Android 3.0 Honeycomb browser

Unfortunately, that’s all the information we could get. We’re assuming that the Market will be updated to recognise and serve tablet versions of apps to Android 3.0 devices, but the Motorola spokesperson wouldn’t answer that question.

Hardware-wise, the Xoom has a dual-core processor, a 10.1in screen with a 1,280×800 resolution, Gorilla Glass cover, 1GB of RAM and is upgradeable to 4G. The tablet will be released in the US in the next couple of months, but pricing and UK availability wasn’t available.

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