some predictions about what Google might announce today, one was that Big G would officially announce the forking of Android into two separate operating systems, one for smartphones and one for tablets. "A Honeycomb (read: tablet) UI just might not make sense for smartphones," we wrote, "and vice-versa."When we took a leap last night and made
Today, we got a chance to ask Google product management director Hugo Barra, who told us that some of the developer features shown today were created to address precisely these concerns.
"Honeycomb is a tablet-optimized operating system. As you saw in the demos today, compatibility just isn't an issue," explained Barra. "Apps that are built for phones work seamlessly on tablets. We're giving developers additional tools to make it optimized optimized for tablets as well as tools to design an app that works on both."
During today's presentation, Barra demonstrated one of these tools, which he called "application fragments." Using Gmail as an example, Barra showed how the screen was split into to sections, and how these sections could be reused to interact with different content. Google offers a description of the functionality on its developer site:
Starting with Android 3.0, developers can break the Activities of their applications into subcomponents called Fragments, then combine them in a variety of ways to create a richer, more interactive experience. For example, an application can use a set of Fragments to create a true multipane UI, with the user being able to interact with each pane independently. Fragments can be added, removed, replaced, and animated inside an Activity dynamically, and they are modular and reusable across multiple Activities. Because they are modular, Fragments also offer an efficient way for developers to write applications that can run properly on both larger screen as well as smaller screen devices.
According to Barra, it is these application fragments that will allow developers and designers to create apps on Honeycomb that will work for both smartphones and tablets.
"Fragments are a design construct that's thought through with the fundamental requirement of screen size independence. We're thinking about designing apps that work for any screen size," said Barra.
Barra also pointed out that perhaps not all apps are meant for all devices and platforms - a point we could certainly agree with.
"If [developers] write something for the tablet and they optimize it to run on the tablet, they want it to run on the tablet," said Barra. "Some of these games that you've seen are built for a large screen."
In the end, said Barra, Google isn't facing any more issues with fragmentation in the Android ecosystem any more than other rapidly developing and iterating technologies.
"There are no compatibility issues that you could point to today," said Barra. "You could argue about hardware legacy, which is something that any ecosystem that deals with rapidly evolving technology has to understand, but there are no compatibility issues as far as applications are concerned."