Google launches Android Market Web store, promotes 'Honeycomb' advances

To connect users with apps and improve developers' prospects, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) added a Web store component to its Android Market application storefront. The long-awaited feature was unveiled as part of a wider showcase for version 3.0 of Android, dubbed "Honeycomb," which is specifically designed for tablets.

Google's web-based android market is now liveAt a media event at its headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., Android executives highlighted Honeycomb's advances, as well as Google's new cloud-based apps and services for Android. Andy Rubin, Google's senior vice president of engineering and the head of Android, said Google's cloud services tie together Android applications and services. "The cloud is also the central point at which all of the applications and services share information," he said.

Chris Yerga, Android's engineering director for cloud services, introduced the Web store, which is located at market.android.com. The service contains the entire Android app catalog and connects to a user's Android device once they sign into their Google account. The service allows users to install apps on one or all of their compatible Android devices. "Everything is connected," Yerga said. "Your phone is connected to the cloud, your Android Market browser is connected to the cloud." Additionally, users can share apps more easily with friends via email links and Twitter.

In addition to the Web store, Google also is enabling in-app purchases via a new software development kit. Eric Chu, Android's developer ecosystem manager, had indicated in January that in-app purchases were coming to the platform, allowing developers to better monetize their apps.

Much of the event was dominated by a discussion of Honeycomb, and included demonstrations of the new platform and applications running on it. Motorola Mobility (NYSE:MMI) and LG plan to release Honeycomb tablets in the coming months, and other manufacturers are expected to join them in an effort to compete with Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad.

Hugo Barra, the director of mobile products at Google, said all Android apps that follow Google's guidelines should work well on tablets, but added Google is encouraging tablet-specific apps as well. Barra highlighted Honeycomb's improved drag and drop capabilities as well as the platform's new application bar, which brings common application commands to the forefront. Google also designed a new graphics engine for Honeycomb called RenderScript, which is aimed at optimizing 3D graphics; Barra highlighted the new YouTube application with a 3D video viewing library.

The Honeycomb version appears to be a tablet-specific operating system for now, according to Google. A Google spokesman, Andrew Kovacs, told PC Magazine that Honeycomb will not be appearing wholesale on smartphones. "Features will arrive on phones over time," he said. The latest version of Android designed for smartphones, 2.3 or "Gingerbread," was formally unveiled in December.

For more:
- see this Google post
- see this AllThingsD live blog
- see this GigaOM live blog
- see this Engadget live blog
- see this PCMag.com article

Related Articles:
What to expect from Google's Android 3.0
Google previews Android 3.0, updates SDK tools
Google 'not happy' with Android Market app sales
Tablet rush could herald changing of the guard in computing space
Verizon to launch LTE apps center later this year

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