Google has made no secret about its plans for Android. Smartphones and tablets are just the beginning — the company wants Android everywhere. And thanks to FXI Technologies’ Cotton Candy USB device, we may not have to wait long to see Android on more than just our mobile devices.
The Cotton Candy USB computing device by FXI Technologies is a tiny, pocket-sized computer.
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.
Stick Cotton Candy into a computer, and Android will appear in a virtualized window on your desktop. But get this: The USB key also features an HDMI connector. This way, you can connect the stick to your TV and use Android on the big screen (though you’ll need some kind of secondary input device, like a Bluetooth mouse/keyboard combo, to get anything done.)
Cotton Candy is far more than just Android on a stick. 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. It’s an impressive laundry list of specs, and seems more than capable of fueling Android 2.3, aka Gingerbread, the version of the OS that comes on the device.
From TVs to car stereo head units to refrigerators and lighting fixtures, it seems no piece of consumer electronics is out of Android’s reach. And, ultimately, getting Android on as many devices as possible gets Google’s search bar and services onto multitudinous screens beyond the desktop environment. This potentially means more ads served, and more revenue for the search company’s core business.
Android has already appeared is a small number of refrigerators, TVs and automobiles, and if widely adopted in the greater gadgetsphere, app-makers could make better, appliance-specific Android apps.
For now, the Cotton Candy USB stick is a stopgap item — a small taste of what Android can be before it bursts outside its mobile boundaries. Unfortunately, since it’s not a proper Android device per se — i.e., it doesn’t comply with enough of Google’s requirements to be considered “official” — you’ll be unable to access the Android Market from the device. Sideloading is still an option, though, so you won’t be left completely app-less.
Expect Cotton Candy to pop up for less than $200 around mid-2012.
By Mike Isaac