Android, the operating environment developed by Google, has had lots of fanfare, some justified, some not. Just the fact that it was developed by Google, the king of the hill in terms of search, gives it instant credibility. Again, we can debate whether that credibility is justified.
I have to admit, however, that I was pretty surprised to see a press release in my inbox announcing that Android is appearing in E-Ink's electronic paper kit. The press release, from Moto Development Group, however, makes it clear that at this point, it's just a technology demonstration and not a shipping product.
If you're not familiar, E-Ink is an electronic-paper display technology with a paper-like, high-contrast appearance, that boasts a low power consumption. That reduced power results from the fact that the E-Ink device only uses power when the display is refreshed. The labs at Moto Development Group (Moto Labs, labs.moto.com ) are known for their customized solutions on various operating systems, including Ubuntu and Linux, and now obviously Android.
The Android operating system was developed for mobile handsets, so there's no question it has enough bells and whistles to handle less feature-rich applications, such as the E-Ink kit. Moto Labs' key contribution was to develop a custom USB driver to connect Android's operating system to the E-Ink kit.
What also caught my eye was that the E-Ink kit connects to the Beagle Board via that USB interface. The Beagle Board is a feature attraction of the Embedded Systems Conference in San Jose in a few weeks. We've developed a whole track around the Beagle Board at the conference, including one class that'll show you how to run Android on that board.
When I first saw the release of the non-handset Android application, I ran it by Bill Gatliff, who knows as much about operating systems as anyone I know.
“Android is a highly technical product that requires a lot of integration into the hardware platform you want it to run on,” said Bill,” but in return it provides a nice application framework for some pretty interesting features on its own. And because it's 'free,' anyone who wants to invest their time and/or other resources can use it as a building block in the solution to whatever problem they're currently trying to solve.”
Simply put, if you can think of a problem where Android might be part of the solution, there's really nothing that should prevent you from exploring that option.
You could make a similar case for any “free” software, but it sure does help to have the power of Google behind you.
Richard Nass is editor in chief of Embedded Systems Design magazine and editorial director of TechInsights. He can be reached at .