ARM has developed a new mini-computer that could very well speed up the development of applications for 64-bit Android L smartphones and tablets. The computer is slated to ship late next month while the hardware, which is in an uncased computer, is targeting professional developers and large companies and designed to help them write middleware, drivers and tools for 64-bit Android smartphones and tablets that are expected to be on the market by the end of the year.
The price for these mini-computers has yet to be announced nor has an official release date. Google also released a developer preview of Android L last week but has also declined to give a solidified time as to when the final version of the operating system will make its way out to the public.
At this time, however, there are no 64-bit Android mobile devices available, which has hindered the development of 64-bit applications for Android devices with ARM processors. If you aren’t that familiar with the technical mumbo jumbo surrounding smartphones, ARM processors power almost all smartphones and tablets these days.
What’s interesting about this story is that ARM usually licenses its hardware designs and has never actually sold any hardware directly. However, the company is looking to boost its 64-bit hardware and software efforts with the Android developer brand and is doing so by releasing these mini-computers. The only ARM-based 64-bit mobile devices that are currently available are sold by Apple.
The Android L operating system comes with a host of new features, including support for ARM-v8A, ARM’s 64-bit architecture. The board will work with a 64-bit Android version that was developed by Linaro, an open-source development group.
The ARM development board is said to have a quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 along with dual-core ARM Cortex-A57. In addition to that, other features include a graphics processor, USB ports, support for 8GB of DDR3 memory and ARM’s Corelink on-chip interconnect.
Developers will also be able to format applications and games to run within the power and performance constraints of ARM’s 64-bit CPUs, according to ARM’s Vice President of Marketing for Systems and Software Vincent Korstanje. “It’s better to test graphics on actual hardware than through emulators,” Korstanje added.
Typical mobile device makers formulate Android to work on their smartphones or tablets whereas Linaro’s Android build is strictly for ARM-based platforms. The latest version lands somewhere between version 4.4.2 (also known as KitKat) and its successor Android L, according to a spokesman from Linaro.
Considering the fact that Google has yet to make a final version of Android L available, Linaro has decided to pull the base operating system from the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), a repository where open-source developers contribute Android code. The Android OS from Linaro is formulated to work with processors and other components on ARM’s developer board.
The most recent Android software build from Linaro is based on the Linux 3.10 kernel. In addition to that, Linaro updates Android builds based on the Linux 3.14 kernel that is currently still being tested. Linaro’s Android will provide access to Android run-time (ART) which is an alternative environment to Dalvik for the execution of software programs in Android. Google is also transitioning to ART in Android L, stating that the runtime move will make applications two times faster.
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