TI Joins Android Prototype Party

At the World Mobile Congress, chip maker TI shows how Android runs a Web browser, e-mail and video on a smart phone.

Texas Instruments has joined ARM as a second chip maker to give the Google-forged Android mobile operating system a test drive at the Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona Feb. 11.

TI is showing off a prototype smart phone based on its OMAP850 processor that provides access to a WebKit open-source Web browser, contacts, Gmail, SMS text messaging and YouTube videos, TI Technical Marketing Manager Kevin Hasley told eWEEK from the show.

Hasley said people who stopped to see the demo were surprised by how seamlessly he could switch between applications on the handset, the manufacturer of which has not been disclosed.

"It's almost like a two-button access to get to your videos," Hasley said, pointing out that the platform features a dedicated YouTube button that leads to the most-visited, most-rated videos.

Hasley said the applications sit in a kind of background mode, similar to Microsoft's Windows Mobile operating system. However, he said Android is much more lightweight, enabling developers to use extra memory for more compelling applications in the future.

Google released the open-source-based Android software in November with the goal of creating a mobile platform that makes surfing the Web from a smart phone as painless as surfing it from a PC.

Google aims to make Android an attractive alternative to the Symbian, Microsoft, Linux, Apple and Research In Motion operating systems, which command more than 90 percent of the worldwide mobile market. The software could also support a Google-branded phone, but the company has not confirmed that aspect of its wireless plans.

TI is one of more than 30 members of the Open Handset Alliance created to facilitate and support the construction of gadgets based on Android.

A spokesperson for ARM said the company would host "a first look at an Open Handset Alliance Android platform phone prototype" at the Mobile World Congress Feb. 11-14.

"This is a prototype that does not have the final features or look and feel of a production device," ARM spokesperson Erik Ploof said.

The Mobile World Congress is not the first place the world has seen Android in action. Software maker A la Mobile introduced a suite of prototype applications for Android in January.

Officials with Taiwan-based High Tech Computer told eWEEK they will not demo an Android device at the show, but said the company is still on track to ship a device with the Android platform in the second half of 2008.

A Qualcomm spokesperson said Qualcomm is showing "different applications and functionality running on Android" on prototype devices.