Something has changed in the Android world. The first example of a platform/form factor available with the latest release of Android is not an ARM-based platform. It’s MIPS-Based, and it really is the world’s first available Android Ice Cream Sandwich tablet, with full Android 4.0 functionality and great performance/features –all for less than $100. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the video on YouTube.

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How did this happen?

Of course, it really didn’t happen overnight. It is also only the first of a series of upcoming advantages that MIPS-Based solutions will give Android users. Legendary performance, great power management and affordable licensing terms combine to yield an extremely desirable, affordable solution for end users.

This of course fits perfectly with Google’s intentions for Android.

From the very first, Google created Android for portability across hardware architectures. Initially some people began to think that Android was a single architecture platform simply because of application processor choices made by mobile handset OEMs that were based on their existing designs. Andy Rubin reminded the world of Android’s neutrality when he blogged about his Gene Amdahl moment back in April 2011.

Imagination Technologies has worked with the Android sources since the operating systems’ early days, and has made reference ports available of all the major, applicable Android releases. We recognized early on the potential for Android to move beyond mobile phones and into all corners of consumer electronics – including DTVs and set-top boxes, areas where we already provide industry leading solutions. Across these areas and others, many MIPS licensees have adopted Android to provide a definitive advantage for their customers.

And now comes Android 4.0 – Ice Cream Sandwich – available on the MIPS architecture.

Android 4.0 is significant for both users and new adopters of Android. With this release, Google has improved the user interface based on feedback from Android users. New features have been added to the platform and existing features have become more polished and efficient. However, the single biggest step forward for MIPS’ licensees comes in terms of the basic requirements for Google’s definition of an Android Compatible Device.

No longer do devices need to have all the attributes of a mobile device, phone or tablet. In other words, you don’t need a touch screen to be Android Compatible. All you need are a display and an input device that provides the relevant service inside the Android system.

This is very important for Google as it expands the Android universe of device types. Many of MIPS licensees are well positioned to take advantage of this step forward since they already build SoCs for DTVs, set-top boxes and other digital home products. Now their OEMs will be able to more quickly achieve Android Compatible Device status by starting with Android 4.0 running on MIPS.

What could be better than that?

We chose to launch Android 4.0 on MIPS in the mobile space not just because we could, but because it illustrates the flexible nature of the MIPS architecture. The MIPS architecture powers not only a wide variety of low power products such as mobile handsets, tablets, portable media devices and ebooks, but it also scales to extremely high performance, powering some of the fastest network infrastructure processors – the devices that in aggregate compose the very backbone of the world’s network infrastructure. We have cores in our current offering and future roadmap that address a broad range of application spaces. And we have the ecosystem and technologies to support those applications, including support for symmetric multiprocessing, multithreading and 64 bit capabilities.

Android on MIPS is a natural fit. It leverages our substantial legacy as a leading RISC architecture – the architecture that is taught around the world as the fundamental RISC architecture. It provides our licensees’ OEMs with a competitive software environment that end users are choosing as their preferred system environment. On top of that, like Android, MIPS is the economical choice with it comes to price/performance.

We broke new ground this month by enabling Ingenic and its OEM Ainol to become the first to market with an Android 4.0 tablet. We will continue to break new ground. We always have. That’s what we do.

Bottom line: it’s MIPS. Andy Rubin of Google said it best in our press release:

“I’m thrilled to see the entrance of MIPS-Based Android 4.0 tablets into the market. Low cost, high performance tablets are a big win for mobile consumers and a strong illustration of how Android’s openness drives innovation and competition for the benefit of consumers around the world.”

About the author: MIPS Developer Team

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