Android was the big thing at CES 2011. Much of this was on tablets, not just smartphones. The problem that many had to tackle was that the latest incarnation of Android was designed for the smaller screen of a smartphone. Now developers can get the latest Android 3.0 SDK (Fig. 1) from the Android Developers website.
The new "holographic" user interface (UI) was designed to handle tablets. It has an application bar and status bar making it look more like a conventional PC broweser although with a touch interface. It retains the multiscreen configuration already popular with Android 2.x.
It will be interesting to see how Android fairs against Apple's iOS that is found on the iPad (see Googleâ€™s Android Versus Appleâ€™s iOS: And The Winner Is?). One of the changes in Android 3.0 is a new on-screen keyboard. Likewise, text editing is easier with possible actions being shown on the action bar when text is selected. The standard apps like the browser, camera, gallery, contacts and email interfaces have been refined as well.
Programmers will be able to take advantage of subcomponents, or fragments, to provide finer grain activity control. Fragments are designed to allow developers to tune an application to different platforms like tablets and smartphones. The new "holographic" widgets take this into account.
Widgets on the home screen can be larger now. Obviously most tablets provide more real estate and larger images can provide more information. List and grid widgets also provide a way to present and manage information on a larger layout. A systemwide clipboard, like that found on most PC GUIs, is included in this incarnation of Android.
A plug-in DRM system is now part of the mix. That will please some but not others. The system does now support the Media/Picture Transfer Protocol (MTP/PTP) over USB. On the enterprise side, Android 3.0 supports new types of policies for things like encrypted storage, password expiration, password history, and making passwords more complex using characters required.
Android 3.0 is a major step forward for the platform. Android 3.0 device are not shipping yet but applications should be ready when they do.