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Summary:

Google is holding Honeycomb back from the open-source community in order to keep the platform from being used for smartphones. Getting music to Android smartphones gets easier this week, and Research In Motion’s PlayBook tablet is set to gain access to Android Market applications.

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With one Google Android Honeycomb tablet currently available and more on the way, the open-source community expected to see Google share the code that runs these devices. That will happen, but not for the “foreseeable future” according to the company, who this week said it was holding back on sharing Honeycomb.

The situation illustrates the tight spot Google has put itself in with regard to Android and openness. On one hand, Android is free to use for any hardware maker of phones and tablets, although devices must meet certain requirements for access to the Google Apps and Android Marketplace. This is both a blessing and a curse, because early tablets created more than a year ago using the Android smartphone platform didn’t provide a solid user experience, which can lead to the perception that Android itself is lacking.

That’s precisely the issue Google is attempting to avoid with Honeycomb, which is specifically optimized for the larger display of tablet devices. If Google releases the Honeycomb source code, it effectively loses control of how the platform is used. The fear stems around hardware makers and Android enthusiasts porting the tablet system to smartphones, where again, the user experience may be poor.

One user experience that has challenged Android for some consumers is synchronizing music libraries from a computer to an Android device. That’s likely to become a non-issue once Google launches the cloud-based music storage service found in Android builds a few months ago. But until that happens, there are several options available. I’m personally a fan of the doubleTwist application, especially since the addition of wireless media synchronization and streaming to video game consoles (shown below on video), but Mobiputing shows five additional software solutions worth a peek if doubleTwist doesn’t thrill you.

Speaking of Android software, Research In Motion confirmed support for Android apps on its upcoming PlayBook tablet, which arrives in a Wi-Fi model next month with prices starting at $499. The PlayBook won’t have the actual Android Market installed; instead, developers can choose to submit their Android apps to RIM, which will consider them for inclusion in the BlackBerry App World. The addition of Android software should help make the PlayBook more attractive to potential customers looking for a large software library to run on the tablet.

Since the PlayBook runs on RIM’s QNX operating system, the device will have “app player” software that will act like a virtual machine to run Android apps, much like Google devices do; all Android apps run in the Dalvik VM. Oracle sued Google last yeare, claiming the Dalvik VM uses stolen code, so it’s not yet clear if RIM’s similar solution licenses code from Oracle or if RIM is at risk of potential legal action from Oracle.

  1. The inclusion of Android will do nothing to help RIM’s Playbook.

    It means developers won’t bother to write QNX apps. On the other hand, RIM’s Android experience will be subpar, as it will only use apps from 2.x Android (and not 3.x). Also, if Android apps is what people wanted, they’d be buying an Android tablet (like the Galaxy Tab).

    RIM should go and join the ‘Alliance of the Losers’, which was recently established by inaugural members, Microsoft and Nokia.

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