Google: Motorola Xoom is lead Honeycomb product

Pocket-lint sat down with Google and Motorola to talk about Android 3.0 Honeycomb today, after Google told us that the Xoom was the lead product for the new tablet version of Android.

If you were paying attention at CES 2011, you’ll have heard a lot of manufacturers announcing Honeycomb tablets, that is, tablet devices running Android 3.0. The software didn’t appear however, but it was made clear that Honeycomb was to be the tablet version of Google’s mobile OS.

Motorola and Google demonstrated Android 3.0 to us on the Xoom in a form that hasn’t yet been seen - a different build from the half-baked version demonstrated at CES (a sample of which was also rolled out for us to play with again). The demos we’ve seen on video so far were shown to us live.

Dave Burke, engineering manager for Mobile at Google demonstrated the changes to some of Honeycomb’s core applications, with Jonathan Nattrass and Andrew Morely representing Motorola Mobility.

Burke opened by outlining that big iterations of Android involves a hardware partner. For Android 2.3, Gingerbread, it was Samsung and the Nexus S; for Android 3.0, Honeycomb, it is Motorola and the Xoom tablet, calling it the “lead” product. (With HTC having been in on the action with the Nexus One, when will it be LG’s turn…?)

When questioned what Google gets from this arrangement with Motorola, Burke candidly responded that Google wanted access to the latest hardware, which in this case is what the Xoom brings. Equipped with the 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 2 dual core chipset, it offers the sort of processing and graphics power that we haven’t seen before on this type of mobile device.

But it seems that the arrangement goes further than just hardware and software supply chains, as there were embedded employees at both ends of the deal, with Moto staffers working on Android 3.0 development and Googlers working on the Xoom.

We asked if what we were looking at was pure Android 3.0 and the answer was an absolute “yes”. However, Motorola outlined that they would be adding additional features to the Xoom and that they could add these via updates over the air. An example given was a connected music player, with Motorola saying that this would come later in the year, along with more familiar Motoblur-type features.

Burke did go on to say that given the open source nature of Android, manufacturers would be free to customise the platform as has happened with every other iteration of Android. It’s still not clear exactly what you’ll be greeted with when you lift your new Motorola Xoom from the box, but it seems that if you want Android Honeycomb as Google intended, then the Xoom is where it's at.

When the demonstration was over, however, the Android 3.0-sporting Xoom was snaffled away from our probing fingers, so hands-on time wasn’t an option.