Instruction set architectures (ISAs) such as Arm and x86 are only two of the many that Google’s Android operating system now supports. Android is an operating system that was created by Google. Arm-based chipsets are used in the vast majority of devices that run Android, including smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, and wearables. Intel has discontinued production of central processing units (CPUs) for mobile phones, while support for MIPS has been removed from NDK version 17. However, Reduced Instruction Set Computer V, often known as RISC-V, which is a free and open instruction set architecture (ISA), is an ISA that has generated a lot of discussion. Chips that are based on it may be designed by anybody without the need to pay any license or royalties, and Google confirmed the company’s formal support for it during the keynote presentation that took place at the RISC-V Summit.
Because it is a free and open ISA, RISC-V is unique, and companies who want to produce inexpensive Internet of Things (IoT) devices will be interested in developing low-cost chips with the help of RISC-V. At the same time, businesses who are wanting to lessen their reliance on rivals or other international organizations will also be looking in a serious manner. Intel is now offering to produce RISC-V chipsets for business clients. It is interesting to note that Google already uses the RISC-V architecture for its Titan M2 security processor in the Google Pixel series.
During the keynote address given by the business, Android’s Director of Engineering, Lars Bergstrom, expressed his desire for RISC-V to be regarded as a “tier-1 platform” in the Android ecosystem. This is comparable to what Arm is today to Android, and it is a fairly courageous move to take in the face of what seemed to be an absence of any interest on Google’s part up until this point. In answer to a question from Ron Amadeo of ArsTechnica about whether or not the Android team planned to support RISC-V at Google I/O 2022, the Android team appeared to imply that RISC-V support was not on the horizon for the foreseeable future.
Is RISC-V Android already available?
According to Bergstrom, a very restricted version of Android for RISC-V is already available for download and testing, although it does not support the Android Runtime (ART) for Java workloads. You may get this version from his website. He said that he anticipates formal emulator support to be implemented very soon, with ART to be implemented some time in the first quarter of 2023. He then showed the below slide, which demonstrates that even though there is a significant amount of work to be done in order to get AOSP up and running on RISC-V, the firm is still dedicated to the architecture.
The most positive aspect of the entire situation is that programmers won’t have to put in a lot of effort to ensure that their applications are compatible with RISC-V hardware. Since ART, in its most fundamental form, converts bytecode into the native instructions of the hardware on which it is executing, one might say that it translates to RISC-V rather than Arm. Java code constitutes the totality of the vast majority of Android applications, in contrast to native code, which is a different issue entirely.
There are a few different reasons why businesses could be considering a switch from Arm as their primary semiconductor vendor. To begin, the corporation has shown a great deal of unpredictability. The company’s current owner, SoftBank, made an offer to sell it to Nvidia, but the deal did not go through. In addition, Arm has turned into a piece in the game of trade restrictions that have been imposed on firms such as Huawei, which has resulted in the company being compelled to cease contact for a period of several months. Even worse than that, Arm has sued Qualcomm over Qualcomm’s acquisition of Nuvia.