ARM to ship mini-computer for writing 64-bit Android L apps

ARM wants to boost its 64-bit hardware and software efforts with the Android developer board

A new ARM mini-computer that could speed up the development of applications for 64-bit Android L smartphones and tablets will ship late next month.

The hardware, which is an uncased computer, is aimed at professional developers and large companies to help them write middleware, drivers and tools for 64-bit Android smartphones and tablets, which are expected in the market by the end of the year.

The price of the board hasn't been revealed.

Google last week released a developer preview of Android L, but has not said when it will release a final version of the OS.

There are no 64-bit Android mobile devices available yet. This has stymied development of 64-bit applications for Android devices with ARM processors, which power most smartphones and tablets.

ARM typically licenses its hardware designs and has never sold hardware. However, it wants to boost its 64-bit hardware and software efforts with the Android developer board. The only ARM-based 64-bit mobile devices are currently available from Apple.

A new feature in Android L is support for ARM-v8A, which is ARM's 64-bit architecture. The board will work with a 64-bit Android edition developed by open-source development group Linaro.

The ARM development board will have a quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 and dual-core ARM Cortex-A57. Other features include a graphics processor, USB ports, support for up to 8GB of DDR3 memory and ARM's Corelink on-chip interconnect.

Developers will be able to tune applications and games to run within the power and performance constraints of ARM's 64-bit CPUs, said Vincent Korstanje, vice president of marketing for systems and software at ARM. It's better to test graphics on actual hardware than through emulators, he said.

Typically mobile device makers tune Android to work on their smartphones and tablets. Linaro's Android build is for ARM-based platforms, and the latest version stands between version 4.4.2, code-named KitKat, and its successor, Android L, a Linaro spokesman said.

Since Google has not made available a final version of Android L, Linaro is pulling the base OS from AOSP (Android Open Source Project), a repository where open-source developers contribute Android code. Linaro's Android OS is tuned to work with processors and other components on ARM's developer board.

The latest Android software build from Linaro is based on the stable Linux 3.10 kernel. Linaro also updates Android builds based on the Linux 3.14 kernel, which is still being tested.

Linaro's Android will provide access to ART (Android run-time), an alternative environment to Dalvik for the execution of software programs in Android. Google is moving over to ART in Android L, saying the runtime move will make applications two times faster.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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Agam Shah

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