Google's Android gets native development capabilities

Mobile platform complements Java with C, C++ coding

Google moved to boost its Android mobile device software platform this week by offering developers a kit that enables them to call native code from Android applications.

Android 1.5 Native Development Kit (NDK), Release 1 allows developers to implement parts of applications using native languages including C and C++. Android applications run in the Dalvik virtual machine, which is Google's own software for running Java and serves as Android's primary runtime.

The native kit is a companion to the Android SDK.

"Keep in mind that using the NDK will not be relevant for all Android applications. As a developer, you will need to balance its benefits against its drawbacks, which are numerous," according to a post in the Android blog. "Your application will be more complicated, have reduced compatibility, have no access to framework APIs and be harder to debug. That said, some applications that have self-contained, CPU-intensive operations that don't allocate much memory may still benefit from increased performance and the ability to reuse existing code."

Applications that are good candidates for the NDK include signal processing and physics simulation.

Also featured in the NDK is a way to embed corresponding native libraries into application package files that can be run on Android devices. Native system headers and libraries will be supported in future releases of the Android platform.

The 1.5 release of the kit supports the ARMv5TE machine instruction set.

Android is a project of the Open Handset Alliance, featuring Google.

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Paul Krill

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