SAN JOSE, Calif. MIPS Technologies and one of its partners are developing extensions to the Android operating system to support high-definition video displays. The effort is part of a broader initiative by MIPS to bring Google's cellphone software to consumer electronics devices such as Blu-ray players, set-top boxes and digital TVs.
On Monday (Aug. 3), MIPS officially made available as open source its port of Android. It also announced an early access program for getting a first look at code and hardware optimizations for the operating system.
MIPS and a partner, presumably Sigma Designs, plan to demonstrate a version of Android supporting high def on Aug. 27. Sigma Designs unveiled a MIPS-based system-on-chip running Android on a prototype Blu-ray drive when MIPS announced its support for Android at Computex in June.
To date, Google's Android developers have focused their efforts on supporting handsets. At the Google I/O conference in May, they said the next version of Android, called Donut, will extend the software only from 320x480 pixels to WVGA resolutions of 854x480.
"It's quite a lot of work moving from a mobile platform to HD, and it needs more powerful processors," said Art Swift, vice president of marketing for MIPS. "That's exactly the challenge the MIPS community has--to optimize Android for this [digital living room] user experience," he added.
Engineers need to help Android exploit the HD capabilities of the new Sigma chip, including its DSP features. They also need to finish porting work and optimize software libraries, Swift said.
Just weeks after MIPS announced its Android initiative, Google announced Chrome OS, a new lightweight operating system for its Chrome browser geared for netbooks and other devices it will release late next year. Swift said MIPS was aware of the Chrome OS work when it crafted its Android initiative.
Chrome OS "hasn't impacted us at all," said Swift. Android is "where all our energy is now," he added.
"There's no doubt Android will be widely deployed in mobile Internet devices, picture frames and set-top boxes—it's gone viral very quickly," he said. "Whether [Chrome OS] has a similar viral adoption remains to be seen--we see it more focused on netbooks than any other area," he added.
MIPS estimates it has about 20 customers interested in Android. Representatives of the company were among more than 300 people who attended a recent meeting of the Open Embedded Software Foundation (OESF)
in Japan which is working on setting standards for Android software stacks on set-top boxes and other consumer devices.
The OESF aims to have its first release, code named Blueberry, available to the public in February 2010 based on the Android version 1.5. A follow on based on Android 2.0 and called Cinnamon is slated for June 2010.
Last week D2 Technologies showed a consumer devices enabling voice over IP using Android on MIPS. In addition, last week Mentor Graphics acquired Embedded Alley, the company that helped port Android to MIPS on the Au1260 processor of RMI Corp. for use in a wide range of embedded systems.
Swift said MIPS expects to reveal more systems and silicon partners for its Android initiative later this summer. So far, consumer chip giants such as Broadcom have said they are taking a wait-and-see approach to the Google operating system.