Google’s Honeycomb event: What can we expect?

It seems like just yesterday Google released Gingerbread, well that was almost two months ago – that’s years in Google Time. Google will be officially unveiling Android’s latest version – Honeycomb – this Wednesday, at a press event in their Mountain View campus. The event starts at 10AM PST/ 1PM EST and will be streamed live on YouTube at youtube.com/android. We’ll be glued to the live stream and sharing with you all the Android goodies as it happens. From the invitation sent to bloggers and journalists we already know that they’ll talk extensively about Honeycomb and will probably do a lot of demos as well. They will also let people get some hands-on time with Honeycomb – probably on the XOOM. This is a big deal considering we’ve mostly only seen Honeycomb on simulated demos and buggy emulators. A Honeycomb announcement alone is enough to get any Android fan’s heart going, but what if we see a “one more thing” or several “one more things” at this event? I’ve gathered a handful of good candidates here.

Google Music

This rumor has been on the making for quite a while now. I even wrote it could become true with Gingerbread. Well, it didn’t. But the rumor is picking up steam again. According to an article on BusinessWeek, Google Music has been in the making since last year by none other than Android chief himself – Andy Rubin. The app itself is ready to go, but Google is still working with music labels to acquire licences. It could even launch as soon as next month according to BusinessWeek. The service will let people buy music and also upload their own files to sync with their Android devices. It’s just like iTunes, only much better since you don’t need to worry about USB cables and copying files. We’d love to see this announced Wednesday.

Android Market’s desktop version

A desktop version of the Android Market has been coming for a long time now. I’m surprised this hasn’t been announced already, considering it was demoed almost a year ago at Google I/O. Maybe it’s because it’s tied to the Music store I mentioned above. Google gave us a sneak peek last year of how the store would work. You basically sign in with your Google account. It then recognizes all the Android phones you have and lets you buy and download apps directly to your phones with just a few clicks. Again, no USB cables or syncing to worry about like with iTunes – it’s really “magical” and I’m sure people will love it. This store will join Google’s growing list of web stores (Chrome Web Store, Google eBooks). Maybe in the future they’ll merge all these into an all-in-one store.

Video support in Google Talk

Video support in Google Talk is coming with Honeycomb and was even demoed at CES. We’ll probably see another demo Wednesday of it running on the XOOM , but what about smartphones. We haven’t seen this new version of Google Talk running on a smartphone. However, we might see the new app announced for Android phones this Wednesday. With video support, Google Talk will now compete head to head with Apple’s Facetime and iChat. Yet another front the two giants are fighting it out.

VoIP support in Google Voice

This is another one I thought was coming with Gingerbread, but it didn’t. VoIP support in the Google Voice app. Right now, calling with Google Voice from your phone works just like regular calls. When you make a call, it goes through the carrier’s voice network and not the data network. With VoIP support, the carrier won’t even know you made a call. For them it would be just more IP data flowing through their pipes. This has several benefits. One of them is we would no longer need a voice plan from wireless carriers. Just like Google Voice helped me get rid of my messaging monthly plan, this would help me get rid of the voice plan as well. Also, what about those times when you don’t have a network signal but have WiFi available like in hotels when traveling abroad.

All of the sudden, every Android device out there running Google Voice would now have phone capabilities. Can you imagine a world where you make calls from your microwave? I can. In the grand scheme of things this is just another step towards making wireless carriers just like cable/DSL service providers – and that is dumb pipes. You’d pay 30-40 bucks a month for Internet access and that’s it. Of course, telcos won’t like this at all and Google still needs them to keep selling Android phones. So we’ll see, maybe Google does have the guts to disrupt yet another market. I hear they have a “nuclear option” stashed away just in case telcos don’t cooperate.

Honeycomb on smartphones

This is a huge question mark right now. Honeycomb version for smartphones. We’ve seen a lot of Honeycomb running on tablets but nothing about it running on phones. We already know Honeycomb is not a tablet exclusive and will probably come to phones one way or the other. But what we don’t know is how. Will they mesh everything together with Ice Cream or maybe Android 3.1. We don’t know. What we do know is Google won’t be forking the OS with two different versions of Android, like some people are suggesting. Maybe Honeycomb is ready to go on smartphones and Google has been really quiet about it. Who knows? We hope to see more light shed on this issue this Wednesday.

These are my ideas for some very exciting surprises we could see Wednesday. The presentation is an hour and a half after all, so they could very well squeeze a few of these in there. I’d love to see what other surprises you guys think Google could reveal Wednesday, so head the comments and share it with us – the crazier the better.


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