Android 3.0, also known as "Honeycomb," is the first version of the Android operating system specifically designed for the tablet computers. It's Google's attempt to provide its hardware partners with the tools to answer to Apple's iPad, which currently accounts for about 95% of the tablet market.
Several dozen tablets -- by one count 85, by another more than 100 -- were were announced at the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month, most of them running Android. Suffice to say that Android 3.0 comes carrying the hopes of many technology vendors.
Apple COO Tim Cook is skeptical about the Honeycomb class of 2011. During Apple's recent earnings conference call, he referred to shipping tablets as "bizarre" scaled-up smartphones and soon-to-be-released models as "vapor." Fair enough.
But developers appear to be unswayed by such disparagement. A study released on Tuesday by Appcelerator, a maker of mobile app development tools, and research firm IDC suggests that developer interest in Google's Android platform almost matches interest in Apple's iOS platform.
Particularly noteworthy is the finding that interest in Android tablets rose 12 percentage points since a similar survey was published three months ago. Now 74% of developers responding to the study say they're very interested in developing for Android tablets. For the iPad, it's 82% of developers who feel that way.
Android 3.0 features a UI framework designed for creating apps on tablet-sized screens, a new animation framework, a built-in OpenGL renderer to accelerate 2D processing, a 3D graphics engine called Renderscript, and multicore support.
It also includes multimedia features, such as HTTP Live streaming support, a pluggable DRM framework, a media file transfer protocol called MTP/PTP, and new APIs for Bluetooth and HSP that facilitate audio streaming and headset control.
New enterprise features are also included, such as support for encrypted storage and password expiration, along with other highlights.
"Besides the user-facing features it offers, Android 3.0 is also specifically designed to give developers the tools and capabilities they need to create great applications for tablets and similar devices, together with the flexibility to adapt existing apps to the new UI while maintaining compatibility with earlier platform versions and other form-factors," wrote Android SDK tech lead Xavier Ducrohet in a blog post.
In conjunction with the preview SDK release, Google is releasing updated versions of its Android developer tools: SDK Tools (r9), NDK (r5b), and ADT Plugin for Eclipse (9.0.0).
Apps created using the Honeycomb preview cannot be be published on the Android Market. The preview SDK is only intended to assist developers in preparing their apps for the tablet race to come.