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'Open accessory' API

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Google I/O Google has announced an upgrade to the tablet-centric Honeycomb version of Android. Version 3.1 will soon be pushed out to Motorola Xoom tablets running on Verizon's network.

With the new version, application widgets can now be resized vertically as well as horizontally. The OS can serve as a USB host. And it can accept input for a wide variety of add-on devices, including keyboards, mice, trackpads, joysticks, and game controllers.

The new release also marks the debut a new program known as "Android open accessory", which offers a common API for connecting accessories to devices. An Accessory Development Kit (ADK) was released today, and the API is available with Android 3.1. Google calls the program "completely open." There are no NDAs, it says, and anyone can use the ADK.

Today, at its annual developer conference in San Francisco, Google also announced that Android 3.1 is coming to Google TV, the company's Android-based platform that melds television with the net. With the update, Google TV will now offer the Android Market. Previously, the Market was not available on the platform.

For other Android devices, Google will soon add movie rentals to the Android Market. This will be rolled out to Verizon Xoom users with Android 3.1, and it will come to other Android devices some time after. Users can rent movies beginning at $1.99, and they can be viewed on any Android device connected the same account for up to 30 days.

During its morning keynote, the company gave a token introduction to the next version of Android, known as "Ice Cream Sandwich". This version will span tablets and phones as well as other devices. The company said "it will all be open source", but it's unclear when this will happen.

Google has also teamed with several wireless providers and handset manufactures to define when devices are updated to new versions of the Android. All participating members – including Version, Sprint, and HTC – will update their current Android devices with new versions of the OS for at least 18 months, provided the hardware is compatible.

Google, the company said today, has activated over 100 million official Android devices worldwide. There are now 310 devices in 112 countries, said Hugo Barra, director of Android product management. Google activates over 400,000 Android devices a day, Barra said.

The Android Market, he added, now includes over 200,000 Android apps. Users have downloaded over 4.5 billion applications from the market. ®

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