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Google's Android tablet update: Four key PC-like features

USB connectivity, support for keyboards and mice move Google's Android tablet closer to PC territory

By Brad Reed, Network World
May 10, 2011 03:58 PM ET

Network World - Google released an update to its Android 3.0 ("Honeycomb") tablet operating system today, with several features intended to make Android tablets function more like PCs. These updates have come just two months after Google announced Honeycomb would get Flash support, thus giving users access to videos and games used widely across the Web.

Without further introduction, then, here are four key features to emerge from today's Android tablet update:

- USB connectivity: This is a big upgrade since you'll now be able to attach keyboards, mice, digital cameras and other devices to your tablet and use them just as you'd use them on a normal PC. So for instance, people looking to type up a long report without lugging their laptop around can now use their tablet as a monitor and have a regular keyboard to perform typing with.

ANALYSIS: Tablet-centric Android still needs work, early reviews suggest

- Support for Bluetooth HID keyboards and mice: Don't feel like hooking your keyboard or mouse up to your Android tablet with a USB cable? Not to worry -- as long as your keyboard and mouse come equipped with Bluetooth HID connectivity they'll be able to interact with your Android tablet as well. Google says that multiple input devices "can be attached to the system simultaneously over USB or Bluetooth HID in any combination," meaning you won't have to worry about your keyboard crowding out your mouse or vice-versa.

- An expanded "Recent Apps" list: Having a "Recent Apps" list is a great way to quickly access the applications you use most frequently and now Google has expanded the total number of apps on the list while also giving users the ability to "scroll the list of recent apps vertically to see thumbnail images of all the tasks in progress," similar to the way Palm's webOS let users flip through thumbnails of different applications horizontally.

- Better Wi-Fi connectivity: And finally, the Honeycomb update has improved its Wi-Fi capabilities to allow Android tablets to remain connected to their Wi-Fi hotspots even when the device screen flips off. In other words, you'll be able to walk away from your Android tablet to use the bathroom without fear that your Katy Perry and Justin Bieber downloads will get interrupted.

Read more about software in Network World's Software section.

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