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Embedded Android code goes open source

The company behind MIPS has released the source code for porting the Android operating system to that processor architecture.

The Android operating system is a step closer to being embedded in consumer electronics, after the company behind the MIPS processor architecture open-sourced the code for its Android port.

MIPS Technologies released the source code on Monday, two months after it first said it had ported Android to the 32-bit version of the MIPS architecture. This architecture is used in set-top boxes, digital TV sets, home media players, Internet telephony systems and mobile internet devices (MIDs), and is a rival to the ARM technology on which Android already runs.

"Android presents a compelling value proposition in bringing Internet connectivity and a broad range of applications to MIPS-based digital home devices," MIPS Technologies' vice president of marketing, Art Swift, said in a statement. "We are working closely with customers and partners to ensure that critical technologies are available for developers to take advantage of Android for consumer electronics."

MIPS Technologies and its partners--including chipmakers, manufacturers and working groups within the Android-focused Open Embedded Software Foundation--have already demonstrated Android running on a home media player and on a digital TV reference design. They plan to demonstrate more applications for the platform over the coming months.

Android was unveiled as a smartphone platform by its main sponsor, Google, at the end of 2007. Since then, it has started to take off in the handset market, with several manufacturers releasing phones using the system this year. Work is also under way to release low-cost Android Netbooks later this year, although Google is also planning a separate operating system, Chrome OS, for this market.

The move into embedded systems therefore opens up Android's third front--after mobile phones and the desktop--against Microsoft's Windows, the embedded version of which is Windows CE.

David Meyer of ZDNet UK reported from London.