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Early users of the Motorola Xoom tablet have rendered their verdict of Google's tablet-centric operating system: Needs improvement.
Put simply, many early reviews feel as though Android 3.0 (a.k.a., "Honeycomb") isn't out of its beta stage yet and that it will need some significant upgrades before it's ready for primetime. Engaget's Joshua Topolsky, for instance, noted a "fair share of force closes and bizarre freezes" and said that "while "most applications were fine... there were definitely some moments where we felt like the whole device was teetering on the brink of total crash." Topolsky emphasized that he found a lot to like in Honeycomb but he could only conclude that the operating system was a "spectacular work in progress."
GigaOM's Kevin Tofel also experienced problems with applications crashing and said even the Android Market itself "crashed on me twice in a short time." He concluded that "Honeycomb still has bugs to be worked out."
Wired's Michael Calore and and Dylan Tweney said while the Xoom was a credible iPad rival, the tablet-centric version of Android "takes a bit of getting used to" even for "dedicated Android fans." One particular problem they noted was the fact that the Xoom doesn't have a physical "home" key as Android phones do, as it's been replaced by a touchscreen icon. This can cause problems, they said, because eventually "virtual buttons clutter up the display and rob you of screen space in most applications."
The Boy Genius Report's Jonathan Geller said that Google had made a lot of improvements to the Android operating system as a whole for the Honeycomb edition, but still "found the software a bit clunky to use at times - not because of a lack of processing power or RAM but because it's not always as straight forward as alternative platforms." Geller also said that most of his "annoyances and frustrations" with the Xoom tablet had to do with Honeycomb and not Motorola's hardware.
Reviewers were also perturbed by Honeycomb's lack of support for Adobe Flash and by a lack of tablet-centric applications on the Android Market. The first issue is likely to be resolved in a few weeks as Adobe as vowed to get Flash out to Honeycomb sometime this spring. The second issue might take a while as developers adapt their application development strategies to make more tablet-centric Android apps. This could prove to be a problem in the short term, though, as PC Magazine's Tim Gideon and PJ Jacobowitz have noted, since early adopters could quickly grow frustrated if they can't get the quality of apps they want right away.
"The Android Market is chock full of apps that will offer a disappointing experience on the Xoom," they said. "Here's hoping developers start developing for Honeycomb and the Market is soon populated with more palatable stuff."
ZDNet's James Kendrick looked over all the reviews on the Web and said they confirmed his initial "less than positive" impressions of Honeycomb he'd gotten playing around with the operating system earlier this year. He said while Honeycomb had a lot of promise as a tablet operating system, Google needs to work out a lot of big issues quickly if it's going to create a tablet OS that rivals Apple's iPad.
"I'm not sure Google has the luxury of time to get the tablet experience nailed down," he wrote. "The recurring mention of crashes in early reviews is not something we should be hearing about a shipping product."
Read more about wireless & mobile in Network World's Wireless & Mobile section.