Swimming against the current
We've been hearing for years how Intel is going to take on the ARM ecosystem at its own game - embedded low-power processors. But MIPS, which has a processor architecture that aims to be even more power-efficient than ARM's, has claimed to be the first company to publicly announce a non-ARM phone to pass the Android Certification Test Suite (CTS).
MIPS has been talking up its Android device strategy for a little while, but it thinks passing the CTS is a significant stepping-stone in that process. The CTS consists of around 24,000 tests and is one of the preconditions of being allowed to access the Android Market and use Android branding.
Despite that, the device is already shipping in China, India and Europe. The OEM wasn't named by MIPS, but it runs an SoC made by Ingenic Semiconductor, based on the MIPS32 architecture. It also retails for under $100. We can only assume this phone passed the CTS before it started shipping.
"We look forward to announcements from Intel in the coming months as well, realizing Google's true dream of Android architectural neutrality," said Amit Rohatgi of MIPS, in a blog announcing the milestone.
"MIPS will clearly accelerate the proliferation of Android as we bring Android not only to additional mobile handset SoCs, but also to the consumer electronics manufacturers that long ago selected MIPS-Based SoCs as their gold standard for products such as DTVs, set-top boxes and Blu-ray players. ARM is no longer alone on top of the mobile mountain. We like it up here, and we are here to stay."
Like Intel, MIPS faces a struggle to overcome the huge momentum ARM has in the mobile device market. But if its architecture leads to Android smartphones that are both cheaper and have longer battery life than the ARM equivalents, then maybe it has a fighting chance.
Here's an Ingenic vid (Chinese with subtitles) which eventually gets around to talking about its MIPS chip.