TOKYO It's official: The Google-designed Android platform is reaching out beyond the cellphone.
Android set-tops, TVs, VoIP phones, Karaoke boxes and digital photo frames are coming soon to a retailer near you.
The world of Android is rapidly unfolding in Asia. Software developers, chip suppliers and system companies are all racing toward the same goal: enabling the development of lean and mean, efficient consumer products built on Linux, open source and free software.
Non-smartphone, Android-based embedded products may not reach the commercial market here until early 2011.
But KDDI, Japanese telecommunication service provider, for example, has been reportedly working with Motorola in developing Android-based set-tops.
This fall at CEATEC, Japan's largest electronics show, displays will include prototype Android set tops "conceptualized by Open Embedded Software Foundation (OESF)," according to the group's chairman Masataka Miura.
OESF was established here in February to create a viable Android-based platform for a variety of embedded products. The group, consisting of 25 companies, will launch several working groups, including: set-top boxes; VoIP; network and security; measurement and control; system core; application and services; and marketing and education.
Members include ARM, KDDI, Japan Cable Laboratories, Alpine Electronics and Fujitsu Software Technologies.
Miura said a growing number of semiconductor companies are also interested in participating, including Texas Instruments, Intel, Marvell, Freescale, Qualcomm and Renesas Technology.
OESF plans to open offices in Taiwan and South Korea this summer.
This year "will be a critical year to see if Android will be successful," said Jim McGregor, chief technology strategist at In-Stat. "So far, it appears to have more market momentum and fewer pitfalls than many of the other Linux-based, open-sourced solutions in the market." More important, "It has the Google brand behind it, which is very powerful," he added.
OESF has not received financial backing from Google. Google reportedly welcomes the growing interest among Asian OEMs and ODMs that are spreading Android in various embedded systems.
PC OEMs such as Hewlett-Packard and AsusTeK have made public their interest in using ARM and Linux for their netbooks, expected to be sold at lower prices than mainstream notebooks.
Android is also appearing in E-Ink's electronic paper kit. Moto Development Group, however, said it's just a technology demonstration and it is not a shipping a product.
Japan's OESF underscores how Android momentum is building much faster and broader, extending beyond netbooks. Its initial focus will be set-top boxes. Android will be used in a Motorola set top called "au Box," according to Miura. The product is essentially KDDI's multipurpose IP set top, or a home gateway, designed to drive fixed mobile broadcast convergence, he explained.
Miura also noted that Japanese consumer electronics company JVC is also considering development of an Android TV.