I have no doubt that the next generation of premium smartphones and tablets will be based on 64-bit processors. To provide the power and features needed for new features such as UltraHD video, LTE-Advanced, and 3D products (such as Google's Tango), mobile devices will need a big boost in processing power.
New 64-bit SOCs such as Qualcomm's Snapdragon 805 processor are expected to begin shipping this year, and the first products are expected to be commercially available in the first quarter of 2005, just in time for the Mobile World Congress 2015 in Barcelona.
The most important OEMs have already started developing their own kernels and versions of the Android OS for the new devices, but many manufacturers rely on open-source developments to provide the basic functionality and foundation for the architecture.
Linaro, the collaborative engineering organization developing open-source software for the ARM architecture has more than 200 engineers working on open-source projects for the ARM architecture. Its members include industry leaders such as Qualcomm, ZTE, Fujitsu, LG, Texas Instruments, and MediaTek.
Recently, Linaro announced the availability of the first Android Open Source Project (AOSP) based on the ARMv8-A 64-bit architecture. The Linaro kernel 14.06 release is now available for download. This is the first port of the AOSP, including support for the ARMv8-A architecture, code-named Juno.
The ARMv8 64-bit architecture was announced in October 2011. Since then, ARM has granted several licenses to OEMs, and most of them are Linaro members.
To compete in the fast-growing 64-bit Android mobile market, OEMs need a solid open-source architecture providing the benefits and performance of 64-bit processors while maintaining compatibility with 32-bit applications. Linaro's AOSP provides a complete kernel for Android devices using the ARM architecture, making it easy to deploy new devices without compromising the functionality of old applications.
This is especially important for Asian manufacturers hoping to launch 64-bit Android smartphones and tablets early next year. The recent agreement between ARM and Actions Semiconductor to manufacture SoCs based on the Cortex A50 processor will also help create the market for such devices. When these are paired with the Linaro kernel, OEMs will be able to focus on differentiating features for their products, instead of coding their own kernel.
"We have been using ARM Fast Models to develop ports for AOSP for a long time and it is testament to the quality of our collaborative engineering that we have delivered them running on the ARMv8-A hardware platform so quickly," George Grey, Linaro's CEO, said in a press release. "We look forward to working closely with our members to enable them to deliver next generation Android solutions rapidly to the market."
With an open-source AOSP at their disposal, many manufacturers will start developing their 64-bit devices really soon. If ARM and its manufacturing partners can keep the roadmap for early next year, the Mobile World Congress will be full of 64-bit devices.
— Pablo Valerio is a freelance blogger who writes about mobile and telecom issues for EE Times. He lives and works in Barcelona.