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As the popularity of tablet devices from Apple and various other manufacturers becomes greater, so the need for useful apps that serve practical purposes on devices of that size becomes apparent.
The Motorola Xoom tablet uses the Android 3.0 Honeycomb platform, a new release of Android that is optimized for tablets rather than mobile phones. However, the process of setting up the development tools is pretty similar.
If you have any interest in writing and creating Xoom apps, you will first need to have some background coding. Android uses the Java programming language, although if you have previously only had exposure to VBScript or C++, this shouldn’t be too difficult to pick up.
To get started writing apps for the Xoom, you will need to get your hands on various software tools that can be used to create a development environment and a virtual device for testing.
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Hardware and Software Pre-requisites
Whether you are using a Windows PC, Linux box or Mac OS X, the principles are all the same for development of apps for the Motorola Xoom.
If you are using Windows, your PC will need to be equipped with at least Windows XP 32-bit, while Linux Ubuntu users will need to be on version 8.04 or later. Mac OS X users must be on 10.5.8 or later, and only on Intel/x86 devices; you cannot develop for Android using a PowerPC Mac.
In addition, you will need to download the following:
- Download Eclipse IDE for Java Developers http://www.eclipse.org/downloads/
- The Java JDK 6 http://java.sun.com/javase/downloads/widget/jdk6.jsp
- Android SDK Tools http://developer.android.com/sdk/index.html
These files may take a while to download, depending on your Internet connection speed, but once they have completed you will need to unpack and run the files to install them. Pay attention to where you install the Android SDK Tools – the default options should be fine for all of these applications, but you will need the location of the SDK tools later on.
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Configuring Eclipse and the Android SDK
Open Eclipse and go to Help > Install New Software…, where you will see the Work with field. To the right of this, click Add and enter Android in the Name field and https://dl-ssl.google.com/android/eclipse/ for the location. Click OK to confirm this and the Developer tools option will be displayed – expand this, check all the boxes and click Next. Watch out for any on-screen instructions that need to be followed, and wait while the required tools are downloaded (for instance, you may need to restart Eclipse).
Next head to the Android SDK (you should have already unpacked and installed this) and run the SDK Manager, which you will be able to use to download a suitable package for Android development. In the Choose Packages to Install window, select SDK Platform Android 3.x, API XX (where the x and XX will denote the most up to date versions).
Accept the description and license, click Install and then sit back and wait as the Android SDK tools are downloaded.
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Setting Up the Android SDK
After the download and installation of the SDK tools, you will be ready to setup and configure your own virtual Android device. For this purpose, we will of course be creating an emulator of the Motorola Xoom, which runs the slick tablet-only Android Honeycomb operating system.
In the Android SDK, go to Virtual Devices and select New.... Give the virtual device a suitable name and assign a Target - this should be the Android 3.0 API which you downloaded previously.
You can then select a size for you SD Card and choose a Skin; finally, you have the option of configuring Hardware such as the Device ram size and using the Add button to emulate other hardware.
Click Create AVD to proceed, and the SDK will create your emulated Android Honeycomb environment which you can play around in to get familiar with and then later on use as a testbed for your app!
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Building Apps for Android Tablets
With everything ready, you can then begin building your apps! Android is a flexible system that offers various libraries and APIs to developers for creation of new apps, and as it is so easy to add these into the Android Market it should come as no surprise to learn what a popular platform for development this is.
Using the Eclipse environment you should be building basic apps in no time, and with plenty of development time and testing you should be able to bring your own unique apps to Motorola Xoom users.
Remember, however, that with so many apps for mobile phones already in existence – many of which can be scaled up to run on an Android tablet such as the Xoom – you will need to conceive a particularly useful and interesting app to stand out from the crowd. If you're just coding for your own pleasure, however, you needn't worry about it.
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Author's own experience.
Screenshots provided by author.