Google engineer demos prototype Motorola Android tablet

Google's chief engineer, Andy Rubin, also demonstrated the next version of Google Maps

Google's chief Android engineer on Monday showed a glimpse of a forthcoming tablet from Motorola, a potential competitor to Apple's iPad with a more powerful processor.

A prototype of the Motorola tablet -- which comes with a "dual-core Nvidia 3D processor" and the tablet-friendly Honeycomb version of Android -- was demonstrated by Google's Andy Rubin at the D: Dive Into Mobile conference.

The Motorola device is running an early version of Honeycomb, which will be out next year and has been developed to work better on tablets, according to Rubin. Developers will be able to build applications that can take advantage of the tablets' larger screens but at the same time work on smartphones.

Google is also doing work on the user interface. For example, the Motorola prototype tablet doesn't have any hardware buttons. Instead, it uses virtual buttons on the screen that reposition when a user rotates the tablet in any direction. That's different from the iPad, which has a hardware home button that is fixed.

Rubin wasn't very forthcoming about the hardware specifications or when the Motorola tablet will show up in stores, only saying "it isn't due out for a while." Also, he didn't specify which Nvidia processor the product is using, but said "Nvidia really knows 3D and have been great to work with."

The use of a dual-core processor would likely make the Motorola tablet more powerful than the current version of Apple's iPad, but Apple could equip the next version of its hit tablet with similar hardware.

On the prototype tablet, Rubin demonstrated newest version Google Maps, which will be available for mobile phones in a matter of days, he said.

Aided by the tablet's 3D capabilities, Google Maps can display shadows of buildings as the user zooms in closer to the ground and then shows a 3D landscape as the user tilts the map. The new version is based on vector graphics, which are more efficient and use smaller amounts of data. The user can also download a whole route at once, according to Rubin.

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