British processor designer ARM has released a new Community Edition of its Development Suite software, which brings some of the features of the commercial DS-5 native development tools to individuals and small businesses for free. The tools work alongside the existing Android Native Development Kit (NDK), and allow low-level access to the processor in ARM devices — crucial to creating high-performance applications on any platform. Ultimately, this means that apps can be written in native code (C or C++) rather than relying on Java and an interpreter — a combination that's widely criticised for its inefficiency — and promises up to 4x the performance over Java alone. ARM currently has near-total dominance in Android handsets, with Qualcomm's Snapdragon, Samsung's Exynos, and Nvidia's Tegra processors all based on the company's microarchitecture.
The toolkit will allow smaller developers to exploit the same deep-level integration that currently only larger firms can afford, and could mean that apps across the Android Market will become less power-hungry. This isn't an entirely charitable gesture on ARM's part, though: by providing these tools, it could help maintain its competitive advantage as Intel prepares to enter the race.