The next version of Google’s mobile operating system will be one optimized for use on tablets, that much we know for sure. Andy Rubin himself showcased Android Honeycomb on an upcoming Motorola tablet, which will probably be called Droid Xoom.
However, it is still unclear if Honeycomb will be a tablet-only version of the OS, or if it will be released for smartphones as well. Adding more to the intrigue is a report found today in PCMag, that claims that there are rather steep minimum hardware requirements in play for Honeycomb.
According to Bobby Cha, managing director of Korean electronics company Enspert, quoted in the PCMag piece, Honeycomb will require at least a dual-core Cortex A9-based CPU to run ‘properly’. That word, ‘properly’, makes it hard to understand at this point whether this is a limitation strictly enforced by Google, or a mere recommendation based on user experience testing.
Anyway, if it’s true, it may mean that current-gen Android tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab will not be upgradeable to Honeycomb, and will be forever stuck on Gingerbread, if they will even be updated to that (though in this case if they won’t be, that’s purely the manufacturers at fault). Also, basically all the Android smartphones on the market right now would never get past Gingerbread, supposing Honeycomb will in fact be out for phones as well as tablets. This would create a rather odd situation for Google, and surely many more people will start crying “Fragmentation!” than before. Many people who have just purchased the highest-end Android devices would also understandably get quite annoyed at the lack of forward software support they’d be facing. And finally, the Google-backed Samsung-made Nexus S would also be stuck on Gingerbread forever. That possibility in itself pretty much either renders this report as false, or confirms in a way that phones won’t get Honeycomb. Not at first, at least, and not with such minimum hardware requirements. After all, even the mighty Apple has kept the iPad on a separate software version than the iPhone for almost a year, so such a path may be something that Google will end up taking.
A touchscreen with a resolution of 1280×720 may also be required for Honeycomb, although it appears that there will be multiple Android tablet screen sizes, the smallest apparently being 7 inches.
Cha also said that Motorola’s tablet (the Droid Xoom) will indeed be the first to market to run Honeycomb. Its unveiling is imminent, and will take place in about two days.
Google declined to comment on these allegations, and while that isn’t an outright denial, it isn’t a confirmation by any means either. We’ll have to wait and see on this one, though, with CES right around the corner, we won’t have a lot of waiting to do before we’ll find out the truth.
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