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The sweet smell of Android Gingerbread and Honeycomb gets stronger

by Kristen Nicole

Sweetmeats for Android OS

We were hoping for some Google (GOOG) Android OS news from lead developer Andy Rubin’s talk at the D: Dive Into Mobile conference, and that’s exactly what we got. You can just taste the anticipation over Gingerbread (Android 2.3) and Honeycomb (Android 3.0), as both were demoed and time-stamped for upcoming launches, though the latter won’t be available until next year.

A key point of differentiation for the new OS versions is the ability for an app to work on multiple form factors, able to support fragments that can be displayed at the same time.  Think of it as having the TweetDeck desktop app open, with two columns that act independently. It seems to be the next iteration of multi-tasking, layering in more capabilities for apps so that they become a great deal more usable.

Rubin noted that Android tablets are going to be a focal point for pushing out these OS updates, highlighting the new features for the larger mobile devices. Smartphones will be receiving updates as well, but Gingerbread and Honeycomb appear to be a major driving force behind Android’s attempts to take on the iPad, stepping things up in a manner similar to their early phone’s multitasking pot shots at Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone.

Google Books and 3D Maps

While the OS updates aren’t quite ready for prime time, Google did announce a couple of apps at the conference. Google Books is the company’s answer to Amazon (AMZN) and Apple’s digital bookstores, with a browser-based app for searching, buying and reading e-books. Considering Google’s expansive platform that spans PC and mobile browsers and apps, this is a substantial undertaking that will further disrupt the changing publishing industry.

Google Maps is also set for a major update, with 3D building views. The refreshed Maps 5.0 app for Android is constantly looking to improve contextualization of a given location, with satellite, photo and other layer views. Added perks for the Maps update includes faster load times and smooth zooming.