Google to optimise Android to run on Intel

13 Sep 2011
Intel CEO Paul Otellini announces Intel's partnership with Google at his IDF opening keynote

Google promises future versions of Android will be optimised to run on Intel processors

Future versions of Android will be fully optimised for Intel’s x86 architecture, promising a smoother ride for mobile phones and tablets based on Atom processors.

Andy Rubin, Google’s senior vice president of mobile, appeared on stage at IDF alongside Intel CEO Paul Otellini to announce “the continuation of our strategic alliance”.

“We’re going to collaborate very closely to make sure Android is optimised the best it possibly can be, at very low levels, for Intel architecture,” Rubin affirmed. “I’m very excited to be here and very excited about working closely with colleagues and engineers at Intel.”

You saw how fast Android took share from Apple. So good products on good platforms can still make a difference

A new focus on Android

Intel’s enthusiasm for Android has grown noticeably since last year, when it was promoting the MeeGo Linux distribution for low-power devices. Otellini admitted that the change of focus has been at least partly down to Nokia’s abandonment of MeeGo in favour of Windows Phone 7.

“The original target was Nokia. It was supposed to ship in Q4 [of 2011],” he recounted. “Obviously Nokia shifted left, and our major partner disappeared.”

But Otellini remained optimistic about Intel’s future in the mobile market.

“We lost six months; but we’ve shifted the OS, we’ve shifted the customers and we’re up and running. In the smartphone business it’s not established, ultimately, who’s going to win or lose. You saw how fast Android took share from Apple. So good products on good platforms can still make a difference in this industry – and we hope to be one of them.”

Atom-based reference hardware

To demonstrate the viability of Intel-based mobile devices, Otellini demonstrated a smartphone and a tablet, both based on the Medfield Atom platform, running Android. He was, however, unable to announce any commercial products.

“I can’t give you details on timelines etc. for Intel smartphones,” he apologised. “I can’t give you the manufacturers until they’re public. But we’re looking at multiple manufacturers worldwide, and the first phones that we will be shipping will all be Android based. Hence the importance of the collaboration with Google.”

History repeating?

This isn’t the first time the company has promised Atom-based handsets; back in May 2010 it was demonstrating sample smartphones based on the Moorestown Atom platform, none of which ever made it into the shops.

Asked by one delegate why this time would be different, Otellini gave a bullish answer: “What’s different this time? We’ve finally got it right. Over the last few years, Intel has learned a lot of things about smartphone silicon and system design, and how to best apply the strengths of what we’re learning.”

“Our goal is not easy, but it’s very simple,” he stated. “We want to make Intel architecture the platform of choice for smartphone systems.”

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