At the recent 2013 International CES, Broadcom and Samsung announced the world’s first Android 4.0 set top box with Google Mobile Services (GMS). This first-of-its-kind device is based on—you guessed it, MIPS!

While dozens of Android set-top boxes already exist in the market, Samsung’s SMT-E5015 Smart TV box is the first to pass the stringent Android compatibility and GMS test suites. This means it is the first set-top box  to have legal access to Google’s suite of applications—including Google Play Store, Play Video, Play Music, Search, Gmail, etc.—among the most popular and widely used content and information in the market today.

In order to gain access to this desirable content, Samsung’s set-top-box had to pass Google’s Compatibility Test Suite (CTS), a collection of roughly 24,000 tests that can be performed on any Android device. Passage of CTS grants not only legal access to Google Play, but also access to the several hundreds of thousands of applications, music, movies, TV shows, books, and magazines on the market. Google limits GMS to devices that have passed CTS in order to prevent fragmentation.

Until Samsung’s set-top-box came along, only mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) had passed CTS. Obtaining compatibility for a set-top-box required more than the relatively simple task of “porting” Android. Rather, a tremendous amount of work went into combining the traditional IP and satellite middleware from Alticast, the security middleware for content protection, and the Android environment.

Bringing Android to the set-top-box platform allows a carrier such as Korea Telecom (the first service provider to bring Samsung’s SMT-E5015 Smart TV box to market) to take advantage of the Android ecosystem, and enhances the rich interactive multimedia experience for their customers while still allowing for the secure delivery of premium content.

It is fitting that the MIPS architecture is at the heart of Broadcom’s BCM7356 set-top box SoC that powers this Samsung Smart TV box given MIPS’ long leadership position in the home entertainment market. A majority of major DTV and set-top box manufacturers, and most cable and satellite set-top box companies—including Sony, Toshiba, Sharp, Comcast, Dish Network, AT&T, Hisense, Samsung and many more—leverage MIPS in their products. End products from these companies have wide penetration in today’s home entertainment market.

MIPS also has a long, rich history with Google and Android. In 2009, we worked with many of our licensees to extend Android beyond mobile, optimizing it with digital home features such as support for high definition content and the large screen 10-foot experience.  In the past year, we achieved complete support of the MIPS architecture in the Android source code tree (ensuring each new version of Android is fully and immediately compatible with MIPS-Based devices) and the Android toolchains.  As a result of our work with Android, MIPS and our licensees and OEM customers have experienced a series of “firsts” with respect to Android.

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Android’s early beginnings on a MIPS-based set top box

In 2010, with our licensee Sigma Designs, we announced the world’s first Android over-the-top (OTT) set-top box (not yet with GMS). In December 2011, we reached a significant milestone in the Android mobile space by releasing the world’s first tablet with Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” in conjunction with Ingenic Semiconductor. And in 2012, we announced the first third-party Android 4.1 “Jelly Bean” tablet for sale in the world.

Given this history, it only makes sense that the first Android certified set-top box would utilize MIPS!

Samsung’s Smart TV box is an indication that Android is moving towards becoming a common platform across integrated smartphones, tablets and DTVs. It’s easy to understand why. Android is royalty-free, and is already widely used in mobile devices. Looking into 2013 and beyond, we expect to see more Android home entertainment devices with Google Mobile Services, and we believe MIPS is the ideal platform for these products. Could this be the beginning of seeing Android for every screen?

About the author: Kevin Kitagawa

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