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Google reportedly working on bringing Android to the Raspberry Pi 3

When the original Raspberry Pi launched, it was billed as a tiny low-cost computer useful to tinkerers, enthusiasts, and as a way to teach kids the basics of coding. Over the last four years, the platform has evolved and improved — the current version of the Raspberry Pi (the Raspberry Pi 3) is a quad-core Cortex-A53 CPU at 1.2GHz with a VideoCore IV GPU clocked at 300-400MHz (3D clocked at 300MHz, video at 400MHz), 1GB of RAM, 802.11n wireless, and a rated power consumption of 4W. That’s not far off the specs of mid-to-low-end Android smartphones these days, and Google which hasn’t formally supported the RBP 3 with an operating system, appears to have taken notice. Multiple reports are suggesting that the company intends to formally support Raspberry Pi with its own version of the Android operating system.

The proof of the potential for such support is an empty folder in the Google repository for its AOSP (Android Open Source Project). There are a number of devices and branches listed in the master directory for AOSP, and many of them aren’t empty. Including the RBP 3 in this list would seem to indicate that Google intends to support the device with future code updates and an Android version. Currently, the RBP 3 is supported by certain Linux distros and even a Windows IoT variant, but bringing Android support to the diminutive computer would open up a world of options for the device.

The best thing about seeing a modern OS come to the Raspberry Pi would be the options it would open for building genuine systems around the hardware. Without intending any disrespect to Linux or Windows 10 IoT, these operating systems don’t have the depth or breadth of applications as Android does. As the RBP hardware continues to advance, it’ll likely close the gap between itself and modern smartphones or tablets by an additional margin — the current 1.2GHz quad-core Cortex-A57 design is a solid target, but it shouldn’t be hard for the Raspberry Pi Foundation to iterate on this base with higher clock speed targets for future designs. The Raspberry Pi and Raspberry Pi 2 were both built on 40nm process technology; it’s not clear if the Broadcom BCM2837 at the heart of the RBP 3 is based on 28nm tech or not. If it isn’t, then there’s definitely room to push the hardware further in future iterations of the platform while keeping power consumption steady.

If Google is serious about supporting the RBP 3 with Android — and absent an official confirmation, that is still an if — it’ll open the hardware up to new projects and capabilities, without detracting at all from its original mission to serve as an inexpensive introduction to computing and computer programming. While the company hasn’t announced anything yet, hopefully the surge of overall interest will spark an official statement.

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