Android, the operating environment developed by Google, has had lots of
fanfare, some justified, some not. Just the fact that it was developed
by Google, the king of the hill in terms of search, gives it instant
credibility. Again, we can debate whether that credibility is justified.
I have to admit, however, that I was pretty surprised to see a press
release in my inbox announcing that Android is appearing in E-Ink's
electronic paper kit. The press release, from Moto Development Group,
however, makes it clear that at this point, it's just a technology
demonstration and not a shipping product.
If you're not familiar, E-Ink is an electronic-paper display technology
with a paper-like, high-contrast appearance, that boasts a low power
consumption. That reduced power results from the fact that the E-Ink
device only uses power when the display is refreshed. The labs at Moto
Development Group (Moto Labs, labs.moto.com) are known for their
customized solutions on various operating systems, including Ubuntu and
Linux, and now obviously Android.
The Android operating system was developed for mobile handsets, so
there's no question it has enough bells and whistles to handle less
feature-rich applications, such as the E-Ink kit. Moto Labs' key
contribution was to develop a custom USB driver to connect Android's
operating system to the E-Ink kit.
What also caught my eye was that the E-Ink kit connects to the Beagle
Board via that USB interface. The Beagle Board is a feature attraction
of the Embedded Systems Conference in San Jose
in a few weeks. We've developed a whole track around the Beagle Board
at the conference, including one class that'll show you how to run
Android on that board.
When I first saw the release of the non-handset Android application, I
ran it by Bill Gatliff, who knows as much about operating systems as
anyone I know.
"Android is a highly technical product that requires a lot of
integration into the hardware platform you want it to run on," said
Bill," but in return it provides a nice application framework for some
pretty interesting features on its own. And because it's 'free,' anyone
who wants to invest their time and/or other resources can use it as a
building block in the solution to whatever problem they're currently
trying to solve."
Simply put, if you can think of a problem where Android might be part
of the solution, there's really nothing that should prevent you from
exploring that option.
You could make a similar case for any "free" software, but it sure does
help to have the power of Google behind you.