Chip designer ARM leads Android alliance

Chip designer launches an alliance of 35 companies to support developers of products running Google's operating system.

ARM on Tuesday announced the launch an alliance of 35 tech companies to support development of Android-based products using its widely used chips.

ARM-based chips power the world's most popular smartphones, including--in the U.S.--the Apple iPhone, Blackberry Storm, Palm Pre, and Motorola Droid.

The Solution Center for Android alliance will serve as a resource for designers and developers of ARM technology-based products running on the Android operating system, which is the software on the popular Motorola Droid smartphone and Acer Liquid.

In addition to smartphones, Android powers digital picture frames and smartbooks--what the Windows-Intel camp prefers to call Netbooks. ARM-based smartbooks packing processors from Qualcomm, Freescale Semiconductor, and Texas Instruments should begin to emerge in force at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, where Lenovo, among others, will debut its first-ever smartbook design. The Lenovo smartbook is expected to be sold by AT&T.

"Developers require assurance that the components they are using are up to the task," ARM said in a statement. "Android was written for the ARM architecture and Android 2.0 was launched on high-performance (ARM) Cortex-A processor designs."

ARM says the launch of popular products is putting new pressure on the ecosystem that supports ARM. "As we have seen through the recent launches of handsets such as Motorola's Droid and Acer's Liquid, the Android platform represents a fundamental change in the open source ecosystem," Kevin Smith, VP of segment marketing at ARM, said in a statement.

Smith says that ARM now needs to ensure that development solutions are world-class. "ARM is in a position to foster an innovative ecosystem to ensure that device manufacturers have the best development solutions at their disposal," he said.

Analysts agree. "Consumer adoption of smartbooks, smartphones and other 'always on' connected devices is forecast to increase significantly in the next few years," Jeff Orr, a senior analyst at ABI Research, said in a statement provided by ARM. "Manufacturers of these devices need a support structure that enables them to develop cutting-edge devices quickly and affordably."

ARM said that in addition to the support of major device makers, silicon partners and solution providers, the Solution Center for Android comprises more than 35 members of the ARM community, including Texas Instruments, Mentor Graphics, and Archos.

Updated at 9:30 a.m. PST: Clarifying that "Netbook" is the name that the Windows-Intel camp gives to the small laptops and "smartbook" is the moniker applied by the ARM camp of device makers.

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