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Android coders get high-speed graphics ability

Google has released a new native programming kit that provides new graphics abilities to programmers using Android 2.0 phones.

Want better games on your Android phone? They may be coming sooner now, at least for Android 2.0 models.

Google has let programmers tap directly into mobile phone graphics power by releasing a third version of its Android Native Developer Kit (NDK) on Monday.

Android applications typically run in a variation of the Java programming environment, a move that aids in making applications that move more easily from one hardware system to another. But Google also lets those applications bypass the Java layer for some direct communications with the hardware through the NDK interfaces. And the big change in the third revision, or r3, is support for a standard graphics interface called OpenGL ES--in this case version 2.0, the same technology supported by newer iPhone 3GS.

"Applications targeting Android 2.0 or higher can now directly access OpenGL ES 2.0 features," said Android programmer David Turner in a blog post.

Supporting OpenGL could help programmers who've already written games using the technology move more easily to Android and maintain high performance.

But it's not just for games. Mozilla is bringing its mobile version of Firefox to Android using the NDK, and one programmer on the project, Vladimir Vukicevic, welcomed the OpenGL ES move.

"Official support for GL ES 2.0 is very interesting; we're planning on switching our rendering on Android to go through an OpenGL path soon, and full ES 2.0 support will allow us to accelerate that even more," he said in an e-mail interview. "It's great to see that ES 2.0 is a core part of the Android 2.0 platform, so that we can rely on it always being present," he said, adding that isn't the case for some the mobile phone designs Mozilla is aiming to support.

And, he said, OpenGL ES support also could help with another project Vukicevic has been working on, WebGL, which provides a 3D interface Web applications running in a browser can use.