The Chinese manufacturer Huawei has worked with Google on a new Raspberry Pi-like developer-centric single board computer for Android developers that, in theory, could be used for digital signage applications.
Trouble is – it ain’t cheap. Ish.
This news seems slightly odd, given that Huawei works under a partial ban on commercial activity in the U.S. (for networking equipment) and Google is kinda sorta blocked in China. But … Huawei is not blocked in the consumer market in the U.S. and even made a Google-branded phone. Plus, this device is using Huawei but it really comes from a Shenzhen company that is focused on single board PCs, called LeMaker.
9to5Google reports that Huawei has developed and is selling, even via Amazon, a small board called the HiKey 960. The board has Huawei’s own Kirin 960 chipset from smartphones, and ships with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. It has an octo-core ARM processor and a Mali-G71 GPU for graphics. It has HDMI 1.2a, USB-C, microSD, and two full-size USB 3.0 ports. The board also has a PCIe m.2 slot and both 40-pin and 60-pin connectors for adding storage or components, as well as Bluetooth 4.2, and 802.11 b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi.
What’s interesting is that it will run Android all the way up to 7.1 Nougat, which is the latest version and way ahead of some set-top boxes and devices on the market that are set up for much earlier versions of the operating system.
Here’s the problem, though. A barebones Raspberry Pi board costs $35-$45 USD, and with a case, power supply and so on, it will still come in at less than $100. The HiKey 960 is $239, and at that number, there’s a wide variety of options available – Android and otherwise. But … Pis are mostly built for the maker community and education, while this is a more powerful device aimed at Android developers and more commercial applications, like POS systems and signage.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.