Chinese chip maker Rockchip is starting to show off tablets with Rockchip processors running Google Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Google released the source code for the latest version of Android recently, and it looks like Rockchip plans to offer the software for some tablets running its 1.2 GHz RK2918 processor during the first week of December.
Rockchip’s inexpensive processors have proven popular with Chinese tablet makers, and they show up in many of the cheap Android tablets we’ve seen to date. But Google only made the source code for Android 3.x Honeycomb available to select partners, so most of the companies that released tablets with cheap Rockchip or Telechips processors were stuck using Android 2.x up until now.
Android 2.x was designed for use on phones rather than tablets, but Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich is optimized for small and large screens alike. It has a keyboard that scales well to larger displays, on-screen buttons for home, back, and recent apps functions that move when you rotate the display, and support for multi-panel applications.
While Rockchip is one of the first companies to show off Android 4.0 running on its hardware, I suspect we’ll start to see a number of inexpensive tablets with the new operating system soon, helping to level the playing field between low-end and high-end tablets.
NVIDIA, Texas Instruments, Qualcomm, and other chip makers are still trying to keep their edge by offering higher-performance chips which offer better graphics performance and longer battery life. But the video released by Rockchip shows Android 4.0 running very smoothly on a tablet with an RK2918 chip, suggesting that the budget processor might be good enough for basic tablet computing.