Google dazzles CES with Android Honeycomb preview

By Julianne Pepitone, staff reporter


LAS VEGAS (CNNMoney) -- Google showed off a preview of its hotly awaited, tablet-optimized Android 3.0 -- nicknamed Honeycomb -- in a demo on Thursday at the Consumer Electronics Show.

Android-based tablets have been a big focus at the massive CES show this year, and companies including Motorola Mobility (MMI) and Toshiba had said they would wait to unleash their new tablets until Honeycomb was released.

The tablet-oriented Honeycomb is meant to improve upon previous Android iterations. In a blog post Thursday, Google highlighted features including a holographic user interface, home screen customization, desktop-like Web browsing and simpler multitasking.

Thursday's demo was led by Android developer Mike Cleron, who said Honeycomb development "focused on what people were already loving about Android." The demo took place on the Xoom, a new tablet that Motorola unveiled in a CES presentation on Wednesday.

Cleron showed off virtual controls at the bottom of the tablet's screen, rather than physical or touch buttons. He then launched into the user interface, including a native Gmail widget, a calendar widget and bookmarks.

The highlights of the presentation were, unsurprisingly, two native Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) apps: Talk and Maps.

"Android has always had great apps, but it's about a great communication tool as well," Cleron said as he showed off a video chat via Google Talk.

The audience "oohed" when Cleron used the recently released Google Maps 5.0, which rotates to show buildings and other landmarks in 3D. "Yeah, it's pretty awesome!" Cleron quipped after the audience's response.

The new update will feature several powerful Web browser updates, including tabbed browsing, form auto-fill, Google Chrome bookmarks sync, and an "incognito mode" for private browsing.

Cleron also showcased tablet-optimized versions of Google's e-book library -- which syncs to multiple devices, including the last page read -- and a flashy YouTube search screen.

Honeycomb will "bring a desktop experience" to tablet Web browsing, Cleron said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Google's Honeycomb demoer as VP of Engineering Andy Rubin. To top of page

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