Android is entering an already crowded market for mobile phone software: To see how crowded, you only had to look at the NEC stand, where four prototypes containing its Medity2 processor were packed onto a narrow table. One was running Symbian OS, one Windows Mobile, one Android on top of Wind River Linux - and the last was running the same Wind River Linux, but with a different application layer based on software from Trolltech and Esmertec.
Android prototype from NEC
NEC staff expressed surprise at the level of interest in Android, saying they expected more attention for the completed phones based on the Medity2 at the next table. Manufactured for NTT DoCoMo, those phones contained the version of Linux promoted by the LiMo Foundation.
The two systems are not necessarily in competition, though. With Android's focus on the application layer and Limo's work on the middleware, the underlying services needed to link applications to the Linux kernel, the two can be complementary, NEC staff said.
Marvell took the prize for the most secretive Android demonstrations, refusing to allow photographs and declining even to say on which of its communications processors the software was running. The company showed a compact handset running the Android interface with a bare minimum of applications, and a more complete installation playing video and browsing the web on a bulky development board. Shrinking that down to a pocket-sized device will not take long, staff said. In fact, they had one ready - just not loaded with the Android software.
Android's Linux roots are likely to encourage the development of a wave of new handset applications, said Marvell's marketing director Vish Deshmane.
"You will see a lot more software to run on devices from people who want to exploit the commonality with desktop systems. It's going to be a boon for the 3G world because more applications means more data traffic, so operators will be happy," he said.
Freescale Android prototype
Over at Freescale Semiconductor, staff showed Google Maps zooming in on the centre of Barcelona on a development board built around Freescale's i.MX31 processor. This processor is not intended for mobile phones at all, and is more at home in GPS terminals or media players such as Toshiba's Gigabit and Microsoft's Zune.
Qualcomm Android prototype
Qualcomm's demonstration of its 7201 combined baseband and application processor sparkled, but did not exploit the chip's full potential. The spinning globe of Android's Global Time application turned smoothly even without the assistance of the 3D graphics hardware acceleration, for which the drivers are not yet ready, said Rob Woodford.