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TI touts role in Android 4.0 rollout

Posted: 25 Oct 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:mobile OS? OMAP platform? multicore architecture? Android 4.0?

People were excited when Google Inc. finally unveiled its Android 4.0, dubbed as the Ice Cream Sandwich in Hong Kong last week. While everyone talked about Google's new OS, Texas Instruments Inc. (TI) was also excited to share its role in the Ice Cream Sandwich rollout.

Several months back, Google started working exclusively with the silicon vendor to optimize the next iteration of its mobile operating system, giving TI something of a two month lead on its competitors.

Google chooses a single chip maker and system vendor for each new version of Android, in an attempt to "spread the wealth" of its momentum. Nvidia Corp. and Motorola Mobility Inc., for instance, were selected in the previous release of Google's Android Honeycomb (3.0), allowing the firms to release working devices running the software onto the market that much sooner than their competitors.

Samsung, Google unveil Android 4.0 smartphone
During the debut of Samsung's Galaxy Nexus smartphone, Google also unveiled the newest version of its Android OS, the Ice Cream Sandwich. Learn more about Android 4.0 and Samsung's Galaxy Nexus here.

This time around, TI has been teamed up with Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd, and the first device running Android 4.0 was the much hyped Samsung Galaxy Nexus running on TI's OMAP4460.

This is also the first combined Android release for both smartphones and tablets, though analyst Nathan Brookwood of Insight 64 said the head start "might not be especially significant." The lead garnered by Motorola in the Honeycomb launch, he said, hadn't helped the firm out as much as competitors had originally thought, though Nvidia had gained a certain momentum from its chips being the first to be optimized.

Remi El-Ouazzane, TI vice president and general manager of the OMAP platform, said in a blog posting that a lot of effort had gone into optimizing use case scenarios for end-users, "always with low power in mind."

Taking a slight stab at Nvidia, El-Ouazzane said OMAP's smart multicore architecture made a "huge" difference. "At the end of the day, brute force (number of cores as instance) does not rival sophistication," he added.

TI also took credit for some of the more unique features of the Android 4.0 user experience, such as hardware-integrated security based on the firm's own M-Shield technology and enhanced memory based on a memory manager baked directly into the chip, which purportedly "significantly minimizes" static memory size. "We also reduced the memory bandwidth needed for user interface and video features," El-Ouazzane said.

OMAP also boasts an integrated, dedicated image signal processor, which makes for more accurate face metering and continuous auto-focus on upcoming devices, allowing interesting use cases like unlocking one's phone through facial recognition (Face Unlock).

TI also touted the power of its OMAP video engine (the IVA HD multimedia accelerator), which it says is uniquely programmable.

El-Ouazzane said those features were just "the tip of the iceberg," in terms of what the OMAP platform would add to the user experience of Android 4.0.

- Sylvie Barak
??EE Times

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