Intel plans to challenge Android with Moblin for MIDs

22 Sep 2009
Moblin

Intel has set its sights on the smartphone market, announcing plans to partner new Atom-based handsets with its open source Moblin operating system.

Intel has formally entered the smartphone fight, giving a bullish demonstration at IDF of an Atom-based phone running the latest incarnation of its mobile Linux-based OS, dubbed Moblin for MIDs (mobile internet devices) v2.1.

Though Moblin is an open source project, it’s managed by Intel and already runs on netbooks and nettops. Product manager Claire Alexander showed how the new version for MIDs will support a simple touch interface, hosting telephony applications as well as all the expected messaging, browsing and application features.

Though Intel didn’t mention its competitors, the announcement is a direct challenge to existing smartphone players. As an open mobile OS, Moblin for MIDs will be competing directly with Google Android. And if the new OS gives x86 added momentum in the smartphone market, that will also put pressure on rival chip manufacturer ARM.

Since Moblin is designed from the ground up as a multi-tasking system, it additionally brings the potential for more sophisticated usages than are currently possible with Apple’s iPhone.

As a cherry on top, Intel has today also launched its own Atom Application Store, with the support of OEMs including Acer and Asus. Though the store will nominally support multiple platforms (including Windows and Adobe AIR), Moblin for MIDs will inevitably be a major focus.

Power consumption

Though Moblin for MIDs sounds persuasive, there’s a catch: current Atom processors consume too much power to deliver acceptable battery life. For that reason, you won’t be seeing handsets based on the current generation of CPUs.

But the next generation of Atom processors – codenamed Moorestown – is planned for the middle of next year, with the promise of greatly reduced power consumption, especially when idle. When that happens, Intel believes Atom-based smartphones will be practical, and Moblin will be ready to hold its own in the consumer market.

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