Alibaba's T-Head Releases Open Source Android 10 Port for RISC-V Chips

Designed for the company's XuanTie C910 chip, the open source Android 10 build is ready for porting — and comes ready for QEMU use.

Gareth Halfacree
9 months agoProductivity

T-Head, Alibaba's semiconductor division, has released a port of Android 10 to the RISC-V instruction set architecture — and this time it's a functional build with a full graphical user interface.

There's considerable interest in using the free and open source RISC-V architecture in future mobile devices, not least for companies like Huawei who have found themselves at risk of being cut off from licensing proprietary Arm IP. The news that PLCT Lab had successfully booted Android 10 on RISC-V, then, was welcomed late last year - but came with the proviso that it was a minimal system, offering only a simple shell and not the full graphical experience users expect of the Android mobile platform proper.

T-Head's porting effort is rather further along: The company has showcased a fully-functional build of the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) version of Android 10, running on its in-house XuanTie 910 RISC-V processor — and it's released the full source code and instructions on following in its footsteps.

"T-Head has ported Android 10 on RISC-V architecture," the company wrote in its announcement of the release. "Android's primary purpose is to create an open software platform available for carriers, OEMs, and developers to make their innovative ideas a reality and to introduce a successful, real-world product that improves the mobile experience for users."

"ICE EVB is a XuanTie C910 based high performance SoC board developed by T-Head. The ICE SoC has integrated 3 XuanTie C910 cores (RISC-V 64) and 1 GPU core; featuring speed and intelligence with a high cost-effective ratio. The chip can provide 4K@60 HEVC/AVC/JPEG decoding ability, and varieties of high-speed interfaces and peripherals for controlling and data exchange; suits for 3D graphics, visual AI and multimedia processing."

All modified sources are provided in T-Head's project repository under an unspecified open source license. The company has confirmed it is looking for contributors to push the effort further, and PLCT Lab's Wei Wu has answered the call. "We are just starting to port ART [Android Runtime], and have no graphics support yet," Wu explains. "Since T-Head has open sourced, the PLCT Lab has started to collaborate with the T-Head, and contribute to T-Head's repos. The two independent projects would be merged into one."

The source code is available on the T-Head Semi GitHub repository; a quickstart guide offers instructions for building from source for a 64-bit dual-processor emulated RISC-V environment running in QEMU.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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