Google isn’t reinventing the wheel with Honeycomb, it’s adding to (and in some respects improving) on its Android phone OS. The focus is largely on updated graphics processing, with a built-in 3D graphics engine that applications can take advantage of (besides games, Google Maps, and an anatomy app called Google Body take advantage of it), as well as a more refined use of the home screen that allows, essentially, applications that are running to be docked there, so you can interface with them more easily. The operating system is also more modular, with navigation and content elements treated as separate pieces, which creates fewer graphics issues whether the tablet is used horizontally or vertically.
But, the question on everyone’s mind is who will win out in the end?
Despite appearances, Google is not playing the same game that Apple is. By focusing largely on creating the software that other tablets can run on, and building in multiple options for how the tablets can be set up, Google is sidestepping the area that Apple consistently dominates: the construction of an appealing unified experience on the hardware side. While it makes user experience constant, this can also lead to some complacency, with hardware strictly defining the limits of what an operating system can do, rather than designing the hardware around what the operating system should do.
This is also a downside for the Honeycomb OS, because it does not have a specific set of hardware specs (beyond minimum requirements) that it can program the operating system to. Unfortunately, there will probably be several tablets running Honeycomb down the road that will offer a sub-par user experience, either to create something with a low price point, or just as an effort to latch onto the tablet market. This adaptation decay can hurt widespread adoption, depending on how prevalent it becomes. The sword cuts both ways though, and allows for more advanced tablets to be created that can easily surpass the generally static iPads in short order. It remains to be seen which impression will stand out more.
So, while hardcore fans of both companies bicker over whether one product is better than the other or who’s copying what from where, the rest of us can watch from the sidelines and benefit from the first major challenger that Apple has seen as both companies work to create products that can outdo each other.
What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments.