Can Android Honeycomb 3.2 revive the tablet push?

by Kristen Nicole

It seems like only yesterday that smartphones were the breakthrough gadgets, wowing us with their apps and other capabilities. But how quickly we tire of new toys. As soon as tablets appeared in the market, smartphones became standard feature phones, channeling the promise of even newer technology. And just as Android became the dominant player amongst smartphones, the iPad delivered fresh channel to Google’s (GOOG) mobile OS and the manufacturers that support it. With the stakes higher than ever, Team Android gains a fresh perspective and more players, from Samsung to Amazon (AMZN).

Motorola Xoom plays up Honeycomb 3.2

Motorola (MMI) is a key player on Team Android, its Xoom amongst the first tablets to feature Google’s updated version of Honeycomb for tablets. Android Honeycomb 3.2 is optimized for a wider range of screen sizes, taking into account the myriad of manufacturers creating different devices for the OS. It also has a new fill-screen mode, which renders the app in a smaller screen area, then scales pixels to fit the larger screen. Media files can also be loaded directly from the SD card, and there’s an extended screen support API, giving developers more control over the user interface. Officially available for developers to try out, the SDK will hopefully encourage more tablet-specific apps, which are already regular occurrences for the iPad.

Samsung and HTC build up Android’s ecosystem, face Apple’s wrath

The Xoom may have an early start on Android implementation, but Samsung is looking to own as much of Android’s ecosystem as possible. The expectation on Samsung’s end is that the tablet market will grow in the same manner as the smartphone sector, taking on an organic spread throughout the industry. Samsung has high hopes for its Galaxy Tab, estimating record high sales for this year, topping 300 million. But all that success is garnering the attention of enemies, including Apple (AAPL). As a primary rival to Android’s ecosystem, Apple’s brought lawsuits against Samsung for “blatantly copying” its products, which seems to be an issue Apple has with other Android manufacturers as well.

HTC (2498.TW) is another target for Apple, currently under fire for a string of patent infringements related to its handsets. The Taiwanese cell phone maker lost a preliminary ruling from a US trade panel judge, and was found guilty of infringing on two of Apple’s patents. The win means Apple can follow Microsoft’s (MSFT) cue, picking off Android handset makers one by one. In fact, HTC is already subject to Microsoft, paying out royalties for its licensing program, reportedly around $5 per handset. HTC could even be banned from exporting devices to the US, which could greatly cripple its presence as a top Android handset maker in today’s vast, global market.