So we've just installed Google's first public-access preview of its tablet-focused Android 3.0 Honeycomb operating system, an early build of the platform's SDK that features "non-final" code and APIs; it's intended primarily for developers who want to get a head start on making their tablet app dreams come true, but naturally, we needed to install it and take it for a test drive ourselves. Here are our quick observations:
  • Like Android SDK emulators before it, Honeycomb's is extremely slow -- nearly to the point of uselessness in this case. We'll give them a mulligan since this is a preview build, but seriously, we wouldn't recommend installing this unless you enjoy pulling your hair out.
  • There appears to be some sort of orientation bug that prevents us from going landscape, which is what we really wanted. Sorry about that! We've shot the video sideways and rotated all of our images; if we're able to figure it out or a newer build is released with orientation properly working, we'll update.
  • The browser looks great -- specifically the UI, which is going to make desktop browser users feel right at home perhaps more than any other tablet browsing experience to date. As with the rest of the emulator, it was too slow to really use -- and it kept crashing on us -- but we're digging the look.
  • The system for adding and managing widgets is a joy to use -- it makes your entire desktop accessible from a single screen, and we like the amount of detail you can preview for each widget before deciding whether to use it and where to place it.
  • In general, the window animations and screen transitions seem cool, but none were smooth or fast enough in the emulator to know for sure. Jury's still out until this gets faster or we're using Honeycomb on actual tablets.
  • We're not in love with the dim, squashed segmented display that Google is using for the time in the lower right; we're hoping there are plenty of alternative fonts available.
Since the emulator doesn't provide a "Google experience" build with access to the Android Market, Gmail, or other "branded" Google apps, we weren't able to deep-dive on how real-world applications are going to look on the platform -- but with any luck, Motorola's Xoom should be shipping within a few weeks. In the meantime, check out a video after the break!

Update: We've figured out the orientation trick -- you need to uncheck automatic orientation in Settings, then flip the emulator from landscape to portrait (counterintuitive, we know). We'll be updating the media as soon as we can!

Update 2: Second video (in the correct orientation this time!) added after the break.
Gallery | 13 Photos

Android 3.0 Honeycomb preview emulator hands-on