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Firms give MIPS processor Android boost

Posted: 27 Apr 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Android? MIPS processor? DSP?

Open source developer Embedded Alley and RMI Corp. have partnered to port the Android OS to RMI's MIPS-based Au1250 processor. By providing in May what could be the first port to the MIPS architecture, the partners hope to ride a wave of interest in using Android systems beyond its target smart phone market.

The Au1260, based on a MIPS32 core, runs at data rates from 333MHz to 700MHz and includes a multiply/accumulate unit to handle DSP functions. It is aimed at portable media players and navigation devices, however the companies said it could also be used in a range of systems including medical and test gear and industrial systems.

"This is a somewhat opportunistic move to take advantage of this gap with Android and MIPS," said Paul Staudacher, president of Embedded Alley. "We are convinced there will be a huge market for Android, and where this all goes is not clear so more opportunistic actions may follow," he said.

"This is just a first step, getting a MIPS port done and validated on a board we think is viable for Android," added Matthew Locke, the company's chief operating officer.

Embedded Alley is handling all the porting work, but declined to say what if any financial support it got from RMI for its work. However, the software developer is reaching out to other chipmakers to strike similar partnerships.

"The challenge is Android is designed around the handset use case," said Locke. "There's a whole lot more that goes into designs for systems like STBs and digital TVs," he added.

Another challenge is how to handle the open source basis of the Android code supervised by the Open Handset Alliance which recently previewed a version 1.5 of its software developer kit. As required, Embedded Alley will share any changes it makes to run Android on the Au1250, but just how it does that is unclear.

"The current structure of project has not taken into account [support for] new processor architectures," said Locke. "So there will be some work with the community to get this done," he said.

The company intends to bundle the MIPS Android code with an existing package of tools into a product it will call the EA Development System for Android. It will include a full Android runtime environment based on the so-called Cupcake version of Android, the Linux 2.6.28 kernel and versions of the Dalvik virtual machine and Android bionic library with linker support for MIPS.

The package also includes an Eclipse developer's environment with debuggers. Embedded Alley declined to state the price of the package but it is expected to be less than $50,000.

Embedded Alley has about eight of its 45 developers working on the Android port. The company was founded in 2004 by a group of former executives and developers from MontaVista Software.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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