Ina Fried

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Relax, Android Tablet Makers Can Still Get Google’s Honeycomb

It’s true that Google has delayed the public release of the Honeycomb source code, but that doesn’t mean a stop to the flood of Android tablets coming to market.

In addition to the Motorola Xoom, the lead Honeycomb device already on sale, tablets are on their way from LG, Samsung and–as was clear at this week’s CTIA show–many, many others.

Google also stressed that the delay is not a change in the company’s policy, which is to release new versions of Android into the open source community shortly after their release.

“Android 3.0, Honeycomb, was designed from the ground up for devices with larger screen sizes and improves on Android favorites such as widgets, multi-tasking, browsing, notifications and customization,” the company said in a statement.

“While we’re excited to offer these new features to Android tablets, we have more work to do before we can deliver them to other device types including phones.”

Google has been quite vague about when some of the new features in Honeycomb would make their way into phones.

“Until then, we’ve decided not to release Honeycomb to open source,” Google said. “We’re committed to providing Android as an open platform across many device types and will publish the source as soon as it’s ready.”

That doesn’t mean that tablet makers can’t still get their hands on it, I’m told. Members of the Open Handset Alliance already have access, and other tablet makers can get access by contacting Google.

What it does mean, though, is that folks who want to do other kinds of things with Honeycomb will have to wait a little longer.

The reason, Google says, is that it took a bit of a shortcut. It wanted to get a tablet-optimized version of Android quickly. To do so, it stopped making sure Honeycomb would work on phones. The company is concerned that if it released Honeycomb source code now, someone would try to cram it onto a phone, creating a potential problem for customers and a black eye for Android.

The delay in releasing the source code may well make sense and be a good thing for the Android ecosystem, but it also highlights the fact that Google still controls a lot when it comes to Android.

The news comes on an interesting day, just as Research In Motion announced that its PlayBook tablet will include Android support. That support, though, is only for programs written for Android 2.3 and earlier, RIM said.