Android on a Stick

November 22, 2011

Various versions of Google’s Android mobile operating system have had the code names “Gingerbread”, “Honeycomb”, and “Ice Cream Sandwich”.   So it is perhaps not that surprising that a new incarnation of the system is called “Cotton Candy” — and it even comes on a stick.  A USB stick, that is.  There has been considerable speculation about whether Google might make Android available on a wider range of devices, and this might be a first step.

According to an article at Wired‘s “Gadget Lab”  blog, the new device, which is about 8 cm long and 2.5 cm wide, has been introduced by FXI Technologies.

FXI essentially built an ultra-lean computer inside a small USB stick. Stick it into any device that supports USB storage, and Cotton Candy will register as a USB drive. From there, you can run the Android OS in a secure environment inside your desktop, courtesy of a Windows/OSX/Linux-compatible virtualization client embedded in the device.

The device, which runs Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), has a tiny slot for a Micro SD memory card, and an HDMI connector, allowing it to connect to a television set.  Its fundamental processing capabilities are far from feeble.

Under its Hot Wheels-sized hood, the device sports a 1.2GHz ARM Cortex A9-based processor (the same basic processor architecture you’ll find in the fastest chips from Apple and Nvidia), as well as ARM’s quad-core Mali GPU and 1GB of RAM.

Google, as always. is interested in getting its products in front of as many people as possible, in order to drive increased advertising sales (which is of course its core business).   The Cotton Candy device is a bit of an odd duck; it doesn’t meet enough of Google’s requirements to be an “official” Android device.  FXI has indicated that it intends to market the device primarily to developers and makers of other gadgets.  The device is expected to be available in mid-2012, and to cost less than $200.

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