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Google Shows Off Honeycomb Features, Android Web Market

Although we brought you some of the fun ahead of time, Mobilized is on hand at the Googleplex on Wednesday morning to bring you live coverage of the Honeycomb event starting at 10 am PT.

For those who need a quick recap, Honeycomb, a.k.a. version 3.0 of Android, is designed with tablets in mind and features improved multitouch and notifications, as well as a new user interface and the ability to have applications span multiple panes.

Here’s the liveblog, and there’s a video at the bottom.

10:00 am: Things are just about to get underway here. Everyone has been let in and is in their seats. Presumably to avoid recent issues, we’ve been asked not to use wireless hotspots but, thankfully, there is Google-provided Wi-Fi.

10:02 am: Andy Rubin takes the stage and is welcoming folks. Rubin promises a demo of Motorola Xoom and then we’re going to hear about the future of Android Market.

10:03 am: Rubin on Android: It’s open source. “We consider ourselves the shepherd of it,” he said, noting how many cool Android products he saw at last month’s Consumer Electronics Show.

“With open source, you don’t really know what is going to happen. All the innovation doesn’t happen in this building.”

10:04 am: Rubin is talking about the central role of the cloud, noting that in the future we’ll see more integration between phones and tablets and Google TV (which is also based on Android).

10:05 am: Now up, Hugo Barra, head of Android products, to show off Honeycomb.

10:06 am: First shots of Honeycomb. The bottom left corner has a home button, a back button and a button that brings up recently used items. The bottom left has a clock and various notifications.

“The rest of the screen is dedicated to applications,” Barra says.

10:08 am: Notifications are designed to be non-intrusive, like on phones, but use the extra real estate to provide a bit more information, such as the photo of the person sending an instant message.

In another example, while a music app is active, one can play or pause music from the notification tray.

10:10 am: The notification area also provides quick access to settings such as Airplane mode and to lock the screen orientation.

Barra said that existing apps that follow Android guidelines should run well without modification. Demos existing version of Fruit Ninja, developed before Honeycomb, running well on the tablet.

10:11 am: Of course, Google wants to encourage Honeycomb-specific apps as well. To do that, Google added a number of new tools and concepts, such as fragments, which let apps be split into various panes. Barra is demoing how this works in a Gmail app.


10:12 am: There’s also improved drag-and-drop capabilities in Honeycomb, as well as an application bar at the top that brings common application commands to the forefront.

10:14 am: Barra says that the company spent a lot of time optimizing performance, particularly around 2-D and 3-D graphics.

Existing 2-D graphics code can be hardware accelerated with just a line of code, while a new framework has been added to speed up animations.

There’s also a new engine, called RenderScript, aimed at 3-D graphics. Barra shows this in action in YouTube carousel and turning pages in Google Books.

10:17 am: Barra also shows 3-D in action in Google Body–kind of like Google Maps for the human body.


Now he brings up a game developer to show. Thomas Williamson, CEO of some game maker whose name I didn’t catch, shows Monster Madness, a PS3 game being brought over to Android.

10:21 am: Demo of new camera app, with new design taking advantage of added screen real estate.

Honeycomb supports video chat natively.


They’ve added image stabilization to video chat to improve quality and save bandwidth.

10:23 am: Barra is trying to demo video chat, but can’t find “lady killer” whom he was trying to chat with. Perhaps that user is out, killing ladies.

Decides to chat with his friend Anand instead.

“Sorry I’m not lady killer,” Anand says. “I’m not bad with the ladies, though.”

10:24 am: Now invites CNN exec to show an app they have built for Honeycomb.

10:25 am: Louis Gump, VP of mobile, showing new tablet version of its app for Android. It uses fragments to allow users to choose categories, dive in and swipe from one place to another.

“This is an incredibly immersive experience,” Gump says. “Consumers love it.”

The app includes audio and live video.

10:28 am: It adds iReport for the tablet, allowing people to view user-generated content as well as capture their own photos and videos and upload them from within the app.


10:31 am: Okay, we’re still trying to reach “lady killer” but moving on nonetheless.

10:32 am: Demo of new Android market features with Chris Yerga, an engineering lead at Google.

10:34 am: Release of Android market Web store. It’s the new way for users to get applications on their devices. Previously had to do so only from the Android device. Now users can go to browser.

From the Web, users can purchase and have the app installed directly on their Android devices.

10:35 am: For those who had “cloud-based Android Market” in their Honeycomb Bingo, please mark your square now. (Google Music, anyone?)


10:37 am: Allows you to install app on one or all of one’s compatible Android devices. Moving to the Web allows more graphics and a better sense of the Apps, Yerga says.

He demos buying an app, putting it “on his Google corporate credit card.”

Android Market Web site also makes it easier for friends to share and recommend apps. Email can take a link direct to that app’s page in the store.

In addition to screenshots, developers can post a YouTube video of their app in action.

There’s also a “tweet” button for each app that creates a deep link to that app in the market.

If you are on a computer, the link takes you to a Web market; from an Android device it will take you to the built-in Android Market client.

10:43 am: Okay, if you had “automagically” in your Honeycomb Bingo card, you can mark that one as well.

Next time, perhaps Mobilized will make up actual Bingo cards.

10:44 am: Developers will also have the option to price their app for different currencies. Currently, apps are priced in one currency and then converted.

This will be rolled out in phases, Yerga says.

(Still no “lady killer,” Yerga notes.)

10:45 am: Support for in-app purchases also coming to Android via a new software development kit.

10:47 am: A Disney Mobile rep is up talking about its Android plans. “That number is about to get a lot bigger,” the rep says, noting that the company is bringing Radio Disney and two other apps to Android.

Also bringing Jelly Car, a physics game, as well as Tap Tap Revenge, the company’s biggest mobile title.

The company waited for in-app purchases to be available on Android before porting Tap Tap Revenge, says Disney Mobile exec Bart Decrem.

10:52 am: That allows you to, say, download the latest track from Bruno Mars, who is apparently a really big deal. (Mobilized is old and has to be told who is big these days.)

10:53 am: Yerga is back. Developer code being released for in-app purchases today, though Google has been testing with a few publishers.

In-app purchases will be released for customers before the end of the quarter, Yerga says.


10:54 am: Almost time for the event to wrap up. But first we have “lady killer,” who is apparently music artist Cee Lo Green. (Did we mention we are old?)


10:55 am: Event wraps up and we are off to the demo room to try to shoot some video of Honeycomb in action.

Update: And here it is:

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