SAN JOSE, Calif. Android will get a boost at Computex in Taipei this week as MIPS Technologies announces it will help port the software to a range of MIPS-based processors. RMI and Sigma Designs will be the first of several MIPS licensees to show chips running Android.
Google initially created Android as open source software for smart phones using ARM processors. But OEMs are interested in adopting the code for a broad range of systems including netbooks, e-books, digital picture frames and medical devices.
MIPS wants to ride that interest for OEMs using its cores in networked consumer and embedded systems. The MIPS support could help broaden the spread of Android to set-top boxes, home servers and other devices.
Computex is expected to be a key venue for new consumer and mobile devices. Taiwan's notebook giants are eager to tap adjacent growth markets and leverage free open source software.
Software developer Embedded Alley announced in April it helped port Android to the Au1250 of RMI. Now, MIPS is going public with its work to enable the port for RMI and its other licensees.
"We've been working on Android for awhile in engineering mode, and now that were up on customer devices its natural for us to talk about it," said Art Swift, vice president of marketing for MIPS. "We have been getting a lot of interest [in Android] from customers," he said.
Developers flocked to technical sessions on Android at the Google I/O conference last week.
At Computex, RMI will show as many as 39 customer systems, a subset of them using Android. Sigma will unveil a new SoC based on the MIPS32 74K core and show it running prototype Blu-Ray drive running Android.
"This is the first of many [Android on MIPS] announcements coming by the end of the year," said Swift.
MIPS will make available within 60 days source code and supporting libraries for an Android runtime environment. Its core licenses will be responsible for optimizing versions of that code for the particulars of their SoCs sand OEMs may need to write drivers..
"MIPS does not want to get into the porting business for specific platforms," said Kevin Kitagawa, director of strategic marketing at MIPS. However, it will work on ways to optimize for the MIPS architecture the Dalvik virtual machine that is a key part of Android, he said.
The company is also working to assemble tools for Android in MIPS, beginning with a debugger from Viosoft available immediately. Other tool announcements are in the works.
"We've been in active discussion on the engineering side, it's on the business side that things aren't quite complete," said Swift.
Separately, MIPS has joined the Open Embedded Software Foundation (OESF), a group launched in February to craft standards for Android on systems other than cellphones. MIPS plans to take an active role in OPESF working groups hammering out support under Android for cable-TV conditional access and electronic program guides.