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Are you ready for high-def Android?

Posted: 11 Aug 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Android? high-definition? processor? consumer electronics?

MIPS Technologies and one of its partners are working on extensions to the Android OS 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, STBs and digital TVs.

On 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 definition 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 320 x 480 pixels to WVGA resolutions of 854 x 480.

"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 hasto 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 OS 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.

According to Swift, Chrome OS has not impacted the company and added that all its energy is now focused on Android.

"There's no doubt Android will be widely deployed in mobile Internet devices, picture frames and set-top boxesit's gone viral very quickly," he said. "Whether [Chrome OS] has a similar viral adoption remains to be seenwe 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.

D2 Technologies also recently showed a consumer device enabling VoIP using Android on MIPS. In addition, Mentor Graphics also 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 OS.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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