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Intel tips Atom-based smartphone running Android

Apr 13, 2010 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 16 views

Intel has successfully run Android on an Intel Atom-based smartphone prototype, according to an IDG News Service story. Meanwhile, Android continues to establish a beachhead on the MIPS platform with a new big-endian version of Android for MIPS developed by Serbia-based RT-RK.

At this week's Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in Beijing, Renee James, GM of Intel's software and services group, said the company had successfully ported Android to the x86-based Intel Atom platform, the IDG News Service reports. James was also said to have noted that "certain customers" were interested in using the Android for Atom port, and added that "Intel is enabling all OSes for Atom phones," says the story. 

So far we know of very few attempts to port Android to the x86 platform. In October of last year, Acer announced an Aspire One AOD250-1613 netbook (right) that runs Android on an Atom. The dual-boot system was said to enable users to boot into Android within 18 seconds, but the netbook is primarily Windows-oriented. Acer said at the time that it might consider an Android-only model in the future.

In November, meanwhile, a project called announced a version of Android 1.6 designed to run on an Intel Atom-based netbook. A stable release was posted on Mar. 18 (see link at end). 

An Intel smartphone prototype running Android on an Atom would likely be the first successful Atom-based Android phone, in part because Atom-based phones of any kind have yet to ship. Last fall, the Intel-backed Moblin project announced a v2.1 version of the netbook-focused Moblin mobile Linux operating system that was expected to run on Moorestown-based smartphones. In January, Intel and LG followed up by announcing a GW990 smartphone prototype (pictured at left) which runs on a Moorestown processor.

Moorestown is the designated heir to the Atom, touted for offering greater speed and far greater power efficiency. According to an Intel statement released today at the IDF, the Moorestown chip is due to ship by July 1.

In February, Intel and Nokia announced the MeeGo operating system, which merges Moblin and Maemo, and shortly thereafter, LG indicated it would offer the GW990 with MeeGo. At the same time, another Moorestown-enabled design emerged in Aava Mobile's Aava phone design, which was said to be MeeGo compatible.

Earlier this month, when the MeeGo community opened its repositories to early MeeGo code, the Aava phone was one of two targeted smartphone reference platforms listed, along with Nokia's ARM Cortex-A8-based N900. Yesterday, the Linux Foundation, which hosts the MeeGo community, announced a wide range of partners, but the only potential phone makers look to be Acer and Asus, both of which have previously fielded Android phones.

Despite its long-time promotion of Moblin, and now MeeGo, Intel has recently indicated willingness to work with Google and the Android community. For example, the company is said to be collaborating with Google to ensure that the Linux-based Chrome OS works well on Intel Atom-based netbooks.

Last month, The New York Times ran a story claiming that Intel, Google, and Sony are developing an Android- and Intel Atom-based IPTV and IP set-top box platform with the help of Logitech and Dish TV.

RT-RK announces big-endian Android for MIPS port

Much farther along than a potential Atom-based Android set-top box platform is an effort by MIPS Technologies and its partners to push Android onto MIPS-based STBs and other devices. After porting Android to the MIPS processor platform with the help of Embedded Alley (since acquired by Mentor Graphics), MIPS has announced a number of development kits and supporting technologies for Android on MIPS.

In January, MIPS and Sigma Designs announced several MIPS- and Android-based STB designs that were said to be Android ready. In February, MIPS announced plans to work with Intrinsyc to develop a voice telephony platform for Android-on-MIPS mobile devices.

Now, a new piece of the MIPS on Android puzzle has slipped into place, with Serbian embedded development firm RT-RK announcing the successful port of a big-endian version of Android for MIPS. Companies can now develop Android-ready system-on-chips (SoCs) that incorporate both big-endian and little-endian versions of MIPS processors, targeting devices such as digital TVs (DTVs), STBs, and other devices, says the company.

Most processors can be configured to access data either from left-to-right (big endian) or right-to-left (little endian). Traditionally, little-endian mode has been favored over big endian because it simplifies bit-wise math. Big endian (also called "network order") is often used with IP and in telecommunications systems, because it is said to enable faster routing of compressed data.

Founded in Novi Sad, Serbia, in 1991, RT-RK employs some 200 engineers, with experience in embedded development, as well as kernel development of Linux and proprietary RTOSes (real-time operating systems), says the company. RT-RK says it will launch porting services for Android on DTVs and STBs within the next 60 days.

Stated Art Swift, VP of marketing, MIPS Technologies, "We are pleased to welcome RT-RK to the MIPS Alliance program, and applaud the porting services they are providing for SoCs leveraging Android on the MIPS architecture."

Stated Nikola Teslic, RT-RK CTO, "Our goal is to deliver effective and intuitive internet-based applications for home entertainment that can be easily used by every household member."


The IDG News Service story on Intel's Android smartphone plans may be found here.

The site and its open source Android for Atom-based netbooks distribution may be found here.

Source code for the big-endian Android port from RT-RK may be found here. More information on RT-RK should be here.

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