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MIPS Honeycomb port in progress

Apr 27, 2011 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 2 views

MIPS Technologies says it's working on a port of Android 3.0 (“Honeycomb”) to the MIPS architecture, and also announced a 15 percent year-to-year increase in revenues for its fiscal third quarter. Meanwhile, MIPS and new licensee Ali Corp. of Taiwan announced Ali's Linux-compatible, MIPS32-based “M3701G” chipset, designed for triple-play set-top boxes.

MIPS Technologies helped support a port of Android 1.5 to the MIPS architecture in June 2009, based on Embedded Alley's initial Android to MIPS port. (Embedded Alley has since been acquired by Mentor Graphics, and MIPS makes no mention of Mentor's help in the new Honeycomb port.)

According to MIPS Technologies, it has acquired official source access to Android 3.0 from Google, and is now porting this tablet-optimized version to its processor architecture. MIPS did not say when the port would be ready, but said that specific targeted devices for MIPS/Honeycomb include tablets and Google TV products.

The handful of Google TV devices thus far released run Android 2.x on Intel's Atom CE4100 SoC. However, MIPS and ARM processors are far more widely used in set-top boxes (STBs) and digital TV products. 

Late last year, Velocity Micro released some of the first MIPS-based Android tablets. Its Cruz Tablets, including the seven-inch Cruz Reader (pictured), run on MIPS32-based XBurst SoCs from Chinese semiconductor firm Ingenic. The devices run on Android 2.x, but might be one of the first in line to move up to Honeycomb.

Earlier this month, MIPS Technologies announced the launch of a developer community website called, designed for Android and Linux developers working on MIPS-based hardware, including handsets and tablets. (More background on MIPS' Android developments in recent years may be found in that earlier coverage.)

On April 26, MIPS announced a 15 percent year-to-year increase in revenues in its fiscal third quarter 2011. Revenue from royalties was $13.4 million, an increase of 11 percent from the third quarter a year ago, driven by a 20 percent increase in units, said MIPS. License revenue was said to be $6.6 million, an increase of 23 percent from the $5.4 million reported in the third quarter a year ago.

Stated Art Swift, vice president of marketing and business development, MIPS Technologies, "The Android platform has been a game-changer for MIPS Technologies. When we first began working with Android, we focused on opportunities in devices beyond the mobile handset, and indeed we have already seen MIPS-based televisions, set-top boxes and other products in the market based on Android."

Ali announces Linux-ready MIPS set-top chipset

Earlier this week, MIPS announced that Taiwan's Ali Corp.'s recently released, Linux-ready "M3701G" chipset, targeting "triple play" set-top box (STB) devices, is based on the MIPS32 24Kef core.

The core was based on MIPS' earlier, DSP-enhanced 24Ke core, and includes a floating point unit that boosts graphics and multimedia, says MIPS. MIPS32 24K cores are widely used in digital home and networking products, including broadband access devices, digital televisions, STBs, and digital media players, says the company.

Ali announced it was joining MIPS' Android partner program back in Aug. 2009. Founded in 1987, Ali offers a number of SoCs targeting digital home and portable entertainment, including its M3x line of STB-oriented SoCs. Other Ali-supported markets are said to include digital A/V devices, portable media players (PMPs), high-speed imaging, storage, and multimedia peripheral products.

The new M3701G chipset targets triple-play STBs, a fast growing segment that includes voice and Internet in addition to traditional digital television broadcasting services. The M3701G chipset supports a hybrid design that combines DVB-C HD and DVB+IP in dual-mode operation, says ALi.

The M3701G chipset includes support for MPEG-2/4, H.264, AVS (Audio Video Standard), VC-1, and VP8 decoder, says the company. It also includes a high-performance graphics acceleration Open VG v1.1 engine. Additional features are said to include built-in QAM, Ethernet MAC, three USB ports, HDMI, and a double-tuner.

Although Ali joined MIPS' Android Early Access Program, the company mentions only Linux support, the typical choice in MIPS-based STBs (see quote below). Presumably, with its Linux foundation, the M3701G chipset could also support an STB running Android, however.

Stated Daniel Huang, COO of Ali, "The 24KEf core provides high performance multimedia processing, an open architecture for Linux support, floating point design for support of value added services, and extremely efficient operation."


MIPS Technologies did not mention when the Android 3.0 port to MIPS would be available, but the company's new may be a good place to keep track of its progress.

The M3701G chipset is available now, says Ali. More information may eventually appear on Ali's STB SoC page. The company has not yet responded to our request for more detail on the chipset.

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