Android to go beyond phones to a range of personal devices

By , Computerworld |  Mobile & Wireless, Android, Linux

Android, the Linux-based operating system used in the G1 smartphone and others to come, is destined to be part of many other devices, including personal multimedia devices, mobile Internet devices, medical monitoring tools and home-entertainment controllers.

Embedded Alley Solutions, a San Jose-based provider of embedded Linux products, said Thursday that it is extending the Android mobile application platform to support a processor architecture from MIPS Technologies Inc. in Mountain View, Calif. Embedded Alley said it will enable Android to work on the Alchemy low-power processors from RMI Corp., a Cupertino, Calif.-based semiconductor company.

Matthew Locke, Embedded Alley's chief operating officer, said his company will provide an Android-ready Linux kernel for RMI's Au1250 System on a Chip. Specifically, Embedded Alley is porting the Android Dalvik virtual machine to the MIPS instruction set and CPU cores. There are particular power management capabilities in the Au1250 that will make it popular for a variety of applications where low power consumption is a priority, he said.
Locke didn't name any specific devices that will run Android but said, in general, Android over MIPS could run inside game controllers such as for the Nintendo Wii or in media players like Apple Inc.'s iTouch.

Locke said that Android will eventually work on a variety of popular chip designs, including ARM, x86, PowerPC and MIPS. The diversity of devices running Android has already gone beyond the G1 smartphone sold by T-Mobile USA. This week, Chinese manufacturer Skytone Transmission Technologies Co. announced a Google Android netbook, the Alpha 680, which runs an ARM11 processor and costs $100 to $200.

While many devices will run on Android, Locke predicted that it would not be used in high-end, multicore processors.

Embedded Alley was founded in 2004 and employs about 30 people in San Jose and elsewhere. The company is privately held, and Locke would not disclose how many customers it serves. Embedded Alley support for Android will be available in May.

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