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Posted on February 16th, 2011 by Jonathan Bray

The dual-core ‘phone’ that runs Android and Ubuntu

There’s more than enough glitz and smartphone glamour at Mobile World Congress to keep me writing previews well into next week, but when I dropped in at the ARM stand, it was something a little unusual that drew my attention.

On the edge of a narrow bench sat a rattly-looking development unit – the kind of device phone and chip makers use to test hardware before squeezing it into the shiny, sleek chassis I’ve seen so many times over the past three days. But that’s not the interesting part: ARM was using it to demonstrate the benefits of multicore mobile processors, the sort so many of the new devices this year are set to employ.

The Texas Intruments OMAP 4 chip inside it is based on ARM’s Cortex-A9 architecture and in the video below it’s shown running Android 2.3 and Ubunutu 10.04 simultaneously.

That’s interesting from a technical point of view, you might think, but a little gimmicky right? Well, it’s closer to reality than you might think. The Motorola Atrix smartphone, launched to great fanfare at CES in January, boasts a very similar feature. Drop this in the rear of its ‘laptop’ dock and control switches to the larger screen displaying a desktop environment, allowing you to use the power of the phone just like a notebook. Motorola also has a desktop dock for the Atrix which allows you to connect it to a monitor, keyboard and mouse.

Motorola Atrix keyboard and screen dock

ARM also showed us a quick demonstration of how much more power the latest dual-core processors offer over their single-core counterparts. This time two bare boards, each sporting identical Nvidia Tegra 2 chips (again based on ARM’s Cortex-A9 architecture), with one running at full power and the other with one of its cores disabled, are seen rendering a sequence of locally cached web pages.

The dual-core processor streaks ahead, understandably, but it’s the margin of difference that’s the real eye-opener. Check out the video below – it’s quite revealing.

ARM envisages a time when the only computer you’ll ever need is your smartphone and with Nvidia announcing it will be putting quad-core mobile processors into tablets by autumn and smartphones by Christmas, that prospect looks to be approaching faster than anyone expected.

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6 Responses to “ The dual-core ‘phone’ that runs Android and Ubuntu ”

  1. Nicomo Says:
    February 16th, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    Loving the technology!
    Slap this in a 7″ slate and I’ll be happy, stick it in a 4″ phone and I’m over the moon :) Looks like Christmas shopping sorted !

  2. Adrian Says:
    February 16th, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    Someone else has been doing this for a while now.

  3. oiaohm Says:
    February 17th, 2011 at 12:30 am

    Bad news for Microsoft bottom line.

    Windows 8 that is coming out for arm most likely will have to end up bundled with phones as well. So ending for good the desktop/phone market split.

  4. milliganp Says:
    February 17th, 2011 at 8:58 am

    There really is a breathtaking rate of progress happening in the Phone / Tablet market. With at least 4 manufacturers making Arm chips and competing for features and applications the ecosystem is showing just what an open competitive market can do.

  5. Stephen Bennion Says:
    February 17th, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    A little gimmicky, but then again the same thing was said against the ipad and the netbook when they came out. Not for everyone but ask an ipad user to use an ipod touch or a netbook user to use a cheap heavy 15” laptop instead and you’d have a job on your hands.

    But a phone that can be plugged into a dock attached to a ‘dumb’ laptop consisting of a screen, keyboard, battery, with optional additional storage & graphics umph possibly – you give a mobile user a lighter netbook with long battery life that can also charge the phone. As long as the phone and net book can use the ‘same OS’ you’d remove the synchronising issues when it comes to ‘bookmarks’, email, social networks, downloaded media, and your generic files. And you have a lot of flexibility.
    Smartphones also get upgraded every two years with another convenient monthly contract, this gives you a good expanding market to aim at with one simple mobile broadband & phone contract – providing the phone companies don’t regard docked as tethered for mobile broadband charges so they can charge you twice over.

    There is the potential here of the next revolution laptops gave users over a standard PCs. Small laptop, small screen keeps weight and size down but when your at a desk add in two dual monitors, keyboard and mouse and providing you’re not a games user would you ever buy both a PC and a laptop, or a more expensive laptop and the bits to give you that PC experience you want at a desk.

    Now if only I convince the boss to buy one?

  6. Natasha Says:
    February 17th, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    No mention of processor speed, cache or on-board memory? That’s really top notch journalism… NOT!


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