Android at ESC and IDF -

Android at ESC and IDF

Assuming you're not living under a rock, you've been following the buzz this year surrounding Android smart phones. According to Gartner (August 2011), Android-based smart phones now command 43.4% of the worldwide market–nearly double number two Symbian–with share growing steadily every quarter. Since Android-based phones are essentially embedded devices–as are the tablets that are the next consumer gotta-have device–Android is fast spilling over into the embedded space, big time. So I thought I'd pass on some recent information gems that might apply to you embedded Android developers.

Firstly, at the recently concluded Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) Boston, we presented the first-ever Android Certificate Program curriculum. ESC is closely associated with ESD (note the logo similarity) and I'm also the conference chair for the event. My colleague Ron Wilson assembled a five-class curriculum for ESC that walked attendees through: Fundamentals of Android; Android Jumpstart; Variants, Hacks, Tricks and Resources; Open Accessory Kit; and the hardware-based Embedded Android Workshop.

How'd it go? Let's just say the 4-part series was a runaway success. We were mobbed with attendees, far exceeding the number of people who had preregistered for the class with their paid-for all-access pass. Unfortunately, we didn't have a rock-solid strategy for assigning seats to pre-reg attendees, nor did we have a fall-back plan for the extra wannabees. If you were in either camp and we failed to meet your expectations: my apologies. We're going to repeat the Certificate Program–with many improvements–at ESC Silicon Valley in March 2012.

But as a consolation prize of sorts, Day 1 and 4 instructors Bill Gatliff and Karim Yaghmour have agreed to post their slides and sample code online at and . There's a ton of content here, and you're getting it for free–minus the instructors' useful explanations.

Of course, you'll need a properly configured BeagleBoard-xM to get the full classroom experience. Our paid attendees were given the hardware and tools to use and take home as part of the curriculum. For ESC Silicon Valley 2012, we'll be expanding this concept and including more free tools.

Also at ESC Boston, we worked closely with Intel, the sponsor of three embedded sessions, one of which was particularly applicable to Android: Optimizing Android for Intel Architecture.

That class was based upon Intel's sort-of shocking announcement two weeks prior at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in San Francisco that Google had “plans to enable and optimize future releases of the Android platform for Intel's family of low power Intel Atom processors.” Intel CEO Paul Otellini showed off a next-gen Atom (Medfield) smartphone presumably running Android. This is hugely exciting stuff in that maybe the Atom roadmap will finally move into ARM territory, and that MeeGo (now moving to Linux-based Tizen), Windows Embedded, and Windows Phone 7 won't be the only (non-RTOS) OS choices for embedded IA CPUs.

Intel then made really good on their Android strategy by offering a few gold-plated IDF class sessions all about running Android on IA (x86) CPUs. Check these out:


Intel insiders tell me this will be the future home of all things Android on IA. Intel will start sending you stuff when they're ready.

If you're planning on deploying Android on IA, I strongly recommend reviewing SFTS010: “Developing and Optimizing Android Applications for Intel Atom Processor Based Platforms”. Of note are the new low-power Atom Medfield and Clover Trail roadmaps, along with the tradeoffs of using native C/C++ code in Android NDK apps versus Intel's own x86 NDK. The latter, says Intel, has direct hooks to CPU features like low power modes and security enhancements first found in Ivy Bridge CPUs. There's also an Android x86 emulator that's “fully integrated” with Android at SDK v12, and you'll find porting recommendations for NDK-based apps.

Chris A. Ciufo is the director of content for Embedded Systems Design magazine,, and the Embedded Systems Conference. You may reach him at .

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