Posted by chris caerts on April 28, 2011
Google has recently reassured the market that Android will continue to be the open and processor neutral platform that it was meant to be, without lock-downs or restrictions against UI customizations. The dust up was because Google wants to avoid the type of fragmentation that would prevent applications like the latest hot Angry Birds Rio game that you just downloaded from working on your device.
Android enables the development of portable microprocessor neutral applications that can run on any device equipped with a proper and compliant version of Android. But portability can come with a performance penalty – run-time translation of processor neutral code to target specific machine code is slower than running the same code built natively. Therefore, to achieve required performance levels for the most demanding applications, the Native Development Kit (NDK) can be used to support native application building for a specific target. While this may be required for the most demanding games it shouldn’t be used for most applications. Tim Bray pointed this out at the latest Google Developer Day in Brazil, saying that the NDK is used more often than needed; just because it is available and because it can be done. And, when doing so, portability is sacrificed at the expense of non-essential performance boosts.
This over-enthusiastic deployment of the NDK is not only causing compatibility problems between different 32-bit microprocessor architectures (ARM, MIPS, ARC, Intel) but even between different vendors using the same processor architecture. So if Google is going to push to prevent NDK over-use and guard its usage for what it is meant for, this is good and we will all benefit from the promise brought by Android of every application running on every device.
At the age of 10 Mike begged his father to get him a computer. Never mind that at the time computers were the size of a large office and cost millions of dollars. Yes, Mike is no spring chicken and he didn’t get the computer, although his father did give him an abacus telling him that it would enable him to use the computer that he already had between his ears, which was not appreciated. Whether it was due to the trauma that resulted from using an abacus or just Mike’s love of anything electronic he has spent the last 30 years or so designing, building, and programming computers, microprocessors, and microcontrollers and developing applications that run on them. And his fascination continues with the definition of new processors and architectures in his search for the holy grail of computing: infinite performance at zero power consumption. Statistically speaking he is convinced it is just a matter of time.
Allen started in the ‘semiconductor IP industry’ before it was called the ‘semiconductor IP industry’. Back then, it was about ‘megafunctions’, ‘megablocks’ or MegaMacros™ (as trademarked by the pioneering UK IP company Allen was with… no, not that UK company). The biggest of these ‘mega’ things was an 8051! Today, of course, IP blocks are much larger and much more complex. And, it’s about the software, as well as the hardware. It’s also about working with a set of partners, sometimes called an ecosystem or community. Allen has been doing that for many years and is enjoying working with old and new friends on the ARC processor ecosystem.