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02:17 PM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman

Where Are All the Honeycomb Apps?

The Motorola Xoom hit the market more than a month ago, yet there are still only a few dozen applications optimized for Android 3.0 Honeycomb. What gives?

The Motorola Xoom went on sale February 24, about five weeks ago. It was the first device to hit the market with Android 3.0 Honeycomb. It included a new version of the Android Market, which was designed for the larger display on the Xoom. Only about 15 or 16 apps customized specifically for Android 3.0 Honeycomb were available on February 24. As of Thursday, there are less than 50 Honeycomb apps.

I browsed through the Android Market on the Xoom Thursday morning. I can only find 38 apps that appear to be designed specifically for Honeycomb. Wired magazine, based on discussions it has had in Android support forums, claims the number is closer to 50. (This doesn't count applications that have simply been scaled up to support the resolution of the Xoom's large display).

There are several potential reasons why there aren't more Honeycomb apps, yet.

First, there's only one Honeycomb tablet in the market. Motorola was first out of the gate with a Honeycomb tablet, and five weeks later it is still the only one. Motorola hasn't announced initial sales of the Xoom, but reports suggest it isn't flying off shelves. Even though LG, Samsung, and others have announced Honeycomb devices, none of them has suggested a target ship date other than "later this year." Developers may simply be cautiously waiting for Honeycomb tablets to take off.

Another possibility is that Google provided the Honeycomb-specific tools to developers too late ahead of the launch. Google is still holding the Android 3.0 Honeycomb source code on a tight leash. Perhaps the proper SDKs and APIs haven't filtered into the right sets of hands yet.

I reached out to Google for comment, but it hasn't yet responded.

The lack of apps will hurt Honeycomb's success, at least in the short term. No one wants to buy a $500 to $800 tablet device that doesn't have any applications. Had I actually purchased the Xoom with my own money, I'd be pretty annoyed at the paltry app selection. (For the record, I'll be returning my Xoom review unit to Motorola shortly.)

Android's success in the smartphone arena is a foregone conclusion at this point. The original Android Market for handsets grew slowly, but grow it did. Knowing how vital apps are to devices such as tablets, it is surprising that Google hasn't made sure a wider selection became available in the first month Honeycomb was in the market.

Despite Android's overall popularity, it has scored relatively little initial developer interest in tablet form. What does this mean for the future of tablets based on other operating systems, such as RIM's PlayBook and HP's TouchPad? Will developers rush to support them, or wait and see how things go? If they take the wait-and-see approach, RIM, HP, and others might have a problem on their hands.

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