On Wednesday, Google executives took to a Mountain View, Calif., stage to reveal the company's long-awaited Android 3.0 operating system, also known as Honeycomb. Designed with tablet computers in mind, Honeycomb will soon power many devices primed for competition with Apple's iPad. Until now, Android-based tablets have run on a modified version of the Android operating system familiar to mobile-phone users. But Honeycomb adds a raft of tablet-friendly features. Users can download apps from a new web-based store, make video calls, and customize their homescreens. Apple's iPad still accounts for 75.3 percent of tablet sales, but will Honeycomb cut into Apple's tablet lead just as Android phones have eroded the iPhone's dominance? (See a Honeycomb demo)
No, Honeycomb is not as impressive as the iPad: Honeycomb's user interface "looked pretty cool," says Matt Rosoff at Business Insider, but the new operating system is mostly notable for what it still lacks: Some "groundbreaking new applications," a "new way to download or stream feature movies," and a competitor to iTunes. Consequently, while Android tablets may end up selling well, "they definitely don't have the 'wow' factor that the iPad did at launch."
"If this is Google's best shot at the iPad, Apple shouldn't worry"
Yes, it is a great step forward: "Will the [Motorola] Xoom and other Honeycomb devices come to compete with the iPad?" says Michael V. Copeland at Fortune. "The answer is yes." Honeycomb's designers have succeeded in melding the best features of mobile phones and laptops, making the operating system "a big, impressive step toward the unified, mobile world" that Google is developing. "Is it competition for Apple and its iOS? It sure is." But Apple will, of course, have an answer.
"Google's Honeycomb is sweet"
It is still too early to say: "The great tease is over," says Melissa J. Perenson at PCWorld, now that the improved Android software has finally been introduced. But it's still too soon to render a verdict. Yes, the "slick interface" and "beefed up graphics" are definite upgrades, as is the "redesigned message-notification system." But while "the whole package looks promising and sweet, I'll reserve final judgment" until I get to play more with the final version of Honeycomb, and not just see highlights at a Google media event.
"Google spills the details on Tablet OS, Honeycomb"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The mystery behind China's aggressive push into space
- The best places to find love — and lust — according to science
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- How a drafting error could doom Obama's carbon regulations
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- Sex can't explain the culture war
- How the battle for religious freedom became a nonsensical free-for-all
- Why GOP reformers are bound to fail
- This simple hack for slicing cherry tomatoes will astound you
- The 5 best and worst states for a well-lived life
Subscribe to the Week