Google held a special event this morning to launch Android 3.0, codenamed Honeycomb. The latest version of Google's mobile operating system introduces a new user interface for tablet devices and brings a number of other compelling features such as pervasive hardware accelerated rendering and stronger support for multicore processors.
Google demonstrated the new version of the operating system on Motorola's upcoming Xoom tablet, which is expected to be released later this month. The 10.1-inch Xoom showcases Honeycomb's unique "holographic" user interface shell. During the demo, Google described how various elements of the Android user experience have been adapted for tablets in Honeycomb.
The company also emphasized its commitment to offering richer APIs for developers. Google regards the home screen as a part of the platform, not just a dumping ground for application icons. The home screen widget system has been greatly enhanced to enable the development of more interactive data-driven widgets. The notification system also got an overhaul for Honeycomb, making it possible for developers to expose more information and interactive functionality in notifications.
Improving graphics performance is another one of Google's high priorities. Android application developers can enable hardware-accelerated rendering for 2D graphics by adding just a single line of code. The Android APIs have also gained an animation framework that will make it easier for developers to add elegant animated transitions to their application user interfaces.
Google's says its RenderScript technology will facilitate the development of more fluid and visually sophisticated 3D interfaces. The company showed several impressive examples of applications built with RenderScript, including a 3D YouTube video wall, an e-book reader with 3D page flipping animations, and a music program with a 3D album view. There doesn't seem to be much public information available about RenderScript at this time, but it appears to be a low-level, C-like programming language for 3D development.
As we explained in our recent exploration of the Android 3.0 SDK, Honeycomb offers a new "fragment" system that allows developers to compartmentalize user interface elements and more easily build compound applications. Google illustrated the power of this feature during the event by demonstrating Honeycomb's new tablet-friendly Gmail application.