On May 1, Google released an update to its Android NDK (Native Development Kit) that allows for the creation of native apps that run on MIPS-Based devices. This is a big deal for the Android ecosystem. Google took notice of the millions of MIPS-Based Android devices and took action to include support for the MIPS ABI.

While developers in the past have been able to obtain a MIPS NDK from the MIPS developer site (http://developer.mips.com), they can now get it from the main Android developer site – where the vast majority of developers obtain the NDK. With this move, we expect many new developers will begin pushing out MIPS-compatible apps in very short time.

The considerable majority of total apps in the Android ecosystem (which are Dalvik based) are already available for MIPS-Based platforms. However, with certain graphics-intensive and resource-heavy apps, sometimes developers choose to code native in order to maximize performance and accessibility. We understand that – which is why we’ve been maintaining the NDK with MIPS support on our developer site. Using Release 8 of the official Android NDK, developers can now code native across architectures, resulting in apps that work on multiple devices including those based on MIPS.

android ecosystem jelly bean ndk

Google’s move to include the MIPS ABI in Release 8 of the Android NDK means different things to different people.

For the end-consumer, it ensures that chosen applications will work consistently, across all of one’s connected devices, despite the architecture those devices are based upon – be they MIPS, x86 or ARM.

For the developer, Release 8 holds the promise of new apps being more widely used, and more monetization possibilities. It also opens the door to non-traditional Android segments such as DTVs, set-top boxes and other home entertainment markets (where, by the way, MIPS has a leading market share).

For OEMs, ODMs and silicon partners, it brings freedom of choice, allowing CPU decisions to be made based on an architecture’s merits. (By the way, we believe that MIPS has the best architecture when it comes to price/performance).

For Google, it’s a move that brings credibility to what the company has said many times in the past –that Android was designed to be open to all architectures. And by paving the way for more MIPS-compatible Android apps, this move also has the potential to proliferate Android-based devices several times over.

For MIPS and its customers, this move is both a public acknowledgement of MIPS’ growing importance in the mobile space, as well as an important functional extension of the MIPS mobile ecosystem. As more and more MIPS-Based mobile devices proliferate into the market, the mobile applications ecosystem around MIPS will continue to grow.

Already, several low-cost Android devices based on the MIPS architecture have been released to the market. In fact, the very first tablet to be released with Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” was MIPS! Just last month, Philips released a MIPS-Based, 7” tablet for the China market. This tablet passed the Android Compatibility Test Suite (CTS) and is now fully certified. We believe this opens the door for GMS (Google apps – such as Google Play, Maps, Gmail) integration in future versions.

With this latest release of the Android NDK, developers can push apps on to an even wider audience through Google Play, the Amazon market and other app marketplaces– where MIPS-Based devices can gain access to them (Google Play requires GMS integration – which is coming soon to some MIPS-based devices).

One of the reasons we have been successful at breaking into the mobile space is due to MIPS’ ability to move with speed and precision. Back in the “Cupcake” days, Android porting to MIPS took months. Since then, our expertise has grown, and mobile silicon based on MIPS, including SoCs from Ingenic Semiconductor and Actions Semiconductor, has matured. On Nov 14th, 2011 – when Android 4.0 became public – it took MIPS only seven days to port it, and another ten days for our silicon partner to bring it up (stable) on a tablet device.

On December 5th, it was a MIPS-Based device (not ARM, not Intel) that became the world’s first available Android 4.0 tablet – this was the Ainovo Novo 7 Basic. And to top that, it was available in retail stores in China for less than US$100. This achievement went unmatched for roughly three months – when other tablets supporting Android 4.0 began to trickle into the market.

The legendary MIPS architecture is known for its leadership in home entertainment and networking applications. Through Android, MIPS-Based applications processors are now in tablets and mobile phones. The release of a MIPS NDK by Google enables app developers to more easily tap into the advantages of the MIPS architecture, further accelerating the adoption of MIPS-based solutions in the mobile segment.

Developers can download the NDK on Google’s Android Developers website at http://developer.android.com/sdk/ndk/index.html.

About the author: Amit Rohatgi

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