Google to bundle MIPS support with Android

April 17, 2012 // By Rick Merritt
Google is expected to boost its support in Android for cores from MIPS Technologies, giving the company a badly needed boost in the hot smartphone and tablet sector.

The Android native developers’ kit is expected to start bundling a GNU compiler for MIPS within weeks. Google is expected to bundle full support for the MIPS application binary interface in all Android code and libraries, starting with a future Android release in the next several months.

“Google has started to take notice of the volume shipments of MIPS-based Android tablets,” said Amit Rohatgi, principal mobile architect at MIPS, speaking at the Linley Tech Mobile Conference.

About 1.8 million MIPS-based Android tablets have shipped to date, Rohatgi said. They are mainly low cost systems from China OEMs powered by SoCs from MIPS licensees such as Ingenic Semiconductor.

Philips recently became the first global brand company to ship an Android tablet using the Ingenic SoC. Like many of the China branded systems, it sports a seven-inch screen.

The news comes as reports say MIPS may be preparing for a sale due to declining financial results. The architecture has a solid base in networking and set-top boxes, but has yet to gain a broad foothold in mobile where ARM holds sway.

In terms of software support, as much as 85 percent of Android apps run on the OS’s Dalvik virtual machine interpreter. But as many as 80,000 of the half a billion apps in the Android online store run natively, targeting the ARM architecture.

Code for running Android apps on MIPS already exists. Getting Google to bundle it all as part its standard releases is expected to ease the sometimes tedious job of integrating all the software needed to support the architecture.

“My number one headache and job is to make sure all the tool chains are complete for Android on MIPs,” said Rohatgi. “We absolutely must get official support for the MIPS ABI in Android, and that’s coming,” he added.

Separately, Rohatgi works with leading apps developers to get them to support MIPS in their code. A MIPS emulator called MagiCode