Android unveils Honeycomb: The tablet battle lines are drawn

While the media has had a field day trying to convince people that the table market is being fought on a hardware front, it’s not. Ultimately, it’s the end user experience that makes the difference on whether someone enjoys the product. Honeycomb

Apple, to date, has had a vastly superior interface that – along with its headstart in the market – has allowed it to own a commanding share of the space. Android tablets, meanwhile, have all been built upon an interface that was never meant for devices other than phones. Today, Google changed that.

The search giant has taken the wraps off of Android 3.0 – code-named  “Honeycomb”. And while the operating system still has a long, long way to go in making any sort of real dent in Apple’s market share, it finally looks to be getting close to playing on the same field.

Android 3.0 is an OS that’s built for tables and has a robust feature set that could turn heads. The user interface has been completely redesigned and now includes multitasking, multiple tool bars and reworked camera tools. It also will relaunch the Android Market, making it easier for people to find the apps they’re looking for (as well as the ones they may not know they want until they see them). And in-app purchases are coming soon.

Partners are already lining up, from game makers to CNN, which is integrating its iReport feature into its app for the first time, letting users capture video and photo directly, then upload to CNN. Disney was also on hand, marking its entry into the Android app marketplace. The Mouse House plans to bring a Radio Disney app, as well as games including “Tap Tap Revenge 4”.

The operating system won’t be the only deciding factor, of course. The price of the console will also weigh heavily on consumer minds – and, for now, the top upcoming Android tablets – like the Motorola Xoom – look like they’ll carry a hefty price tag.

Ultimately, it’s not a question of if Android can beat Apple in the tablet market. It’s a question of how quickly can it become a truly relevant player?

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