Google had a huge announcement today: partially unveiling Android 3.0 “Honeycomb,” which we all knew was coming and were waiting for details on, and partially to show off a new, revamped Android App Market (finally with a Web-based store that can do push-installs to your Android phone, much like AppBrain can) complete with a much more unified payment system for apps that cost money.
I was sitting in the live chat for the announcement at PC Mag, who I think has wrapped up the news very nicely:
The first part of Google’s Wednesday event was dedicated to a demo of Honeycomb, its next-generation Android platform. Google showed it off at CES this year, and Hugo Barra, director of products for mobile at Google, took the stage again today for another look.
Google has revamped how users navigate on Android, with a new button dedicated solely to multi-tasking. There is a notification and systems status area on the bottom right, but the rest of the screen is dedicated entirely to apps, he said. The home screen is not just a “warehouse of apps; it’s an app development platform in itself,” he said. Widgets can be stacked for easy scrolling through things like baseball stats or YouTube videos.
“What really matters is, despite the clever computer science we have to enable the smooth experience, it’s just about quick and easy access to important information,” Barra said.
Barra showed off Honeycomb’s IM options, video chat functionality, and notifications, which he said were designed to be “completely non-intrusive.”
Barra also said Google has “spent a significant amount of effort to make sure existing Android apps run really well on tablets.” He pulled up Fruit Ninja on a Honeycomb tablet, a game he said was built before Honeycomb even existed. “It works amazingly well,” Barra said.
Coming out of the event today, it looks like Honeycomb won’t just be for tablets – it may make its way to mobile phones as well, but time will tell. [ update: Google is driving this point home. Honeycomb is for TABLETS, it is NOT FOR SMARTPHONES. ] Honeycomb looks like a complete revamp of the operating system, here’s hoping it’s a good one.
As for the updates to the Market:
At its Wednesday Honeycomb event, Google unveiled the Android Market Web Store, a Web-based version of the Android app store.
Google also announced in-app purchasing for Android apps, and new currency options for developers.
“The Android Market Web Store is basically the new way that users can get apps on their devices,” said Chris Yerga, Android engineering director for cloud services at Google.
Until today, users could only access Android Market apps via the app store client on their phone. Now, users can go to market.android.com and peruse all the available apps. It is live now.
The Android Web Store includes a carousel with promotional banners for apps, as well as familiar categories like features, top paid, and top free, Yerga said. To purchase, click the buy option and a pop-up window will appear, asking you which device on which you want to install the app. Select payment option and the Web Store will send the app directly to your mobile device.
Definitely an improvement over the hodge-podge methodology previously and the ad-hoc payment methods of the Android App Market before today, but I’m not sure if that’s saying too much considering how horrible paying for apps in the Market used to be. Still – the fact that the store is live now and ready to go is a great sign, and the push-installs are great features.
We’ll have to wait and see whether Google’s made the right set of changes to the Market to make app purchases take off. We’ll have to wait even longer to see if Honeycomb pans out to be the boon that Google hopes it will be.