Google targets iPad with Android 3 Honeycomb tablet yumminess
$10k Moto slablet helps devs master new tools' girth
Google's Andy Rubin has been showing off Honeycomb, the next version of Android and one with proper tablet support, explaining how Android applications will work across form factors.
With Gingerbread (Android 2.3) still not out of the door, Google has already started hyping Honeycomb (Android 3), which promises support for higher resolutions and a frame-based API that should allow the same application to run on a phone and a tablet, while being perfectly optimised for both.
Honeycomb isn't due until next year, but Google couldn't help showing it off at the D: Dive Into Mobile conference, along with a new version of Google Maps for Mobile that we'll all be able to enjoy in the next few days. But most interesting was how Google expects developers to be able to create one application that will work on multiple form factors.
The idea is that applications will have multiple frames, called "fragments" and the platform can decide how many, and which, fragments to display at the same time. During the demonstration Andy Rubin showed a GMail application displaying the familiar inbox list on the left, and the contents of a selected mail on the right - the same application running on a phone would only show one of the two fragments at a time, in much the same way it already does.
Applications such as the popular TweetDeck already work this way: the desktop version provides columns of tweets related to subjects, the Android version requires the user to swipe between columns, but presents a very consistent experience. The difference with Honeycomb is that it should be possible for the same binary to provide both interfaces.
That won't be suitable for all applications, but quite what proportion we won't know until next year when Honeycomb and its associated APIs are out, along with the plethora of Android tablets we're promised. The Motorola model demonstrated is a prototype – which accounts for the $10,000 price tag – but its the one that's apparently on the desk of all the Android engineers at Google, showing how seriously the chocolate factory is taking the tablet form factor. ®
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The idea of fragments essentially is a shortcut many lazy devs will abuse to avoid actually making a different views, different options, different graphics and more that actually use the larger screen.
This works well for a "pane" based application like mail, but how this might apply to a document viewer, graphic application, game, etc, it doesn't work out. It's not just about using more pixels without "scaling," its about USING the additional space offered in more productive ways.
Maybe its possible to show one pane on a hone, and a completely different one on a pad, but even so, without the UI itself being naively aware of the resolution, and determining WITHIN a pane what to show and not, then you;re either asking devs to make dozens of frames, one each for every possible resolution, or they'll just scale it up anyway, or they'll show inconsistent panes that don;t completely fill the screen and may or may not show up if the device is not detected properly. Also, resolution alone is a bad idea, unless the app understands the actual native screen size, and can accommodate the appropriate panes (in their appropriate resolutions), for that screen, this could go badly.
I anticipate gingerbread, but i was hoping it would have some native UI elements and custom APIs to actually make creating a GUI that is appropriate for a larger screen both easier and more consistent across devices, this "fragments" idea sounds like it's going to introduce fragmentation into not only app performance development and OS version fragmentation, but screen scaling issues too. Neat trick to get a lot of simple apps "optimized" for the panel, but the devs are going to hate it, and any app actually coded to work as a single pane on a larger screen is going to need completely separate code to work on a smaller one (if it would at all).
When iOS got bigger, they added featyures specific to what a tablet UI could take advantage of. I'm hearing very little of that happening on Google's end.
Yep - I've also heard rumours that some people run Windows in resolutions other than 1280x1024 and that IBM are not the only company which make PCs.
Anyone who thinks different screen resolutions *have* to equate to fragmentation has clearly never used the internet before or seen a webpage.