Google has launched an operating system it hopes will break into the tablet computer market dominated by Apple.
The company showcased the first version of its Android software specifically designed to run on tablets yesterday.
Honeycomb has greater computing horsepower than in previous incarnations, allowing for a sleeker and theoretically faster interface with built-in video conferencing.
During a highly-anticipated press event at its headquarters in Mountain View, California, Google also introduced a new way for developers to make money by building applications that run on Android.
The unveiling raised the stakes in the fast-growing tablet PC market, for which Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft are also developing rival software.
Analysts said Honeycomb, while addressing a couple of perceived flaws in the operating system when used for tablets as opposed to smartphones, was unlikely to immediately shift the balance of power.
'It closed the gap quite a bit,' said BGC analyst Colin Gillis. But he said 'there was nothing there that was going to make me wait in line overnight', referring to the lines of customers who waited outside retail stores when Apple introduced the iPad last year.
Google said Android developers will now be able to sell consumers goods from directly within their apps, a key capability Apple introduced more than one year ago.
And it has started a web version of its applications store for Android devices, which will help developers sell their software applications to a larger audience. Previously, Android apps were available only through client software on devices.
Apple, which some analysts expect will unveil a new version of its iPad later this year, has shipped 14.8million iPads since April.
But it lost its early lead in the smartphone market to Android, which Google gives away to hardware vendors and which became the number one smartphone operating system in the fourth quarter of 2010, according to research firm Canalys.
Whether Google can do the same in the tablet market will depend on the support its new Honeycomb gets from manufacturers, wireless carriers, and the armies of developers who build applications like games and productivity tools.
Google now has more than 100,000 apps available for Android devices, versus Apple's catalogue of more than 300,000.