Image: Engadget

In a 25 minute interview at C.E.S. with Engadget’s Joshua Topolsky, Android Director of User Experience Matias Duarte revealed several details of what’s changing in Honeycomb, including that all hardware buttons will be optional, opening up manufacturers to create form factors that don’t include the familiar Back/Menu/Home/Search combination.

“With Honeycomb, you don’t need to have physical buttons. … We’re not going to dictate to you if you need to have buttons or not.”

Duarte, who was responsible for the UI of webOS and the Sidekick before joining Google, revealed other tidbits about Honeycomb in the interview:

  • He confirmed that Honeycomb is not just a tablet version of Android, but “is absolutely the direction for Android” for all kinds of devices.
  • The multi-tasking UI gets an overhaul, with an on-screen button that users tap to bring up a view of recent apps– not just icons and names, but a “visible, tangible representation” of the what the app looks like. While the long-press goes away for this function, it is “still part of Android in terms of interacting and selecting objects.”
  • An “application bar” at the top of the screen will show different actions the user can take, changing contextually to expose the most common functions and reduce the need to hunt through menus.
  • OEM skins like Sense and Blur are not going away. Honeycomb will be open source like every other release of Android, and he “hopes partners will feel comfortable re-skinning it and adding value. … We want to craft a really solid basic platform for everybody to innovate on top of.”

Those are just the highlights– the interview is full of interesting stuff about Android and UI design in general. Watch it below and head on over to Engadget for their take on it.

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