Google Exec Shows Off Next Generation Android Tablet

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The prototype Android tablet made by Motorola that Google’s Andy Rubin showed off at All Things Digital’s mobile conference yesterday sure looks nice. It won’t be available until some time next year, but it runs Google’s tablet-specific operation system, Android 3.0—also known as “Honeycomb”—and sports a 3D graphics chip by NVIDIA.

Rubin showed off the next version of Google Maps, which he says is “due out soon” for both Android tablets and phones (“in a matter of days” for phones). The application leverages the tablet’s graphics chip to draw actual 3D building models complete with moving shadows.

As for the tablet itself, Google’s going as simple as can be. Instead of the four hardware buttons commonly found on current-generation Android phones, Honeycomb tablets have no buttons at all. They’re all on-screen buttons that reorient themselves based on whether the tablet is positioned horizontally or vertically.

The Honeycomb software will run on both tablets and Android phones, with a particular application running on both types of hardware. However, applications will be able to leverage certain tablet-specific features.

Google calls the concept “fragments.”

Says Rubin:

“[Fragments] allow an application to split its functionality into multiple views, multiple columns. And on a phone, those views will be one after another. You’ll get your inbox first, you’ll click on something, and it will slide away. But on a tablet, they’ll be side by side. And we let the developer express how they want those laid out.”

For example, the Gmail app will run in a single pane on a phone in order to conserve screen real estate but the tablet version of Gmail will make use of the higher screen resolution and appear in a dual-pane mode with the inbox in the left pane and your selected e-mail message taking up the right pane.

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