Intel Preparing Native x86 Version of Android 2.2
Intel is working on a fully native x86 version of Android 2.2 and plans to ship its version of the Google-backed mobile operating system to developers in the next two months.
Given how slowly Android 2.2, codenamed "Froyo," has come to market, that would make x86 one of the first platforms to get the Linux-based OS.
Android had originally been written for ARM-based processors, which are in use in the vast majority of smartphones -- including all of the major HTC Android phones and Google's Nexus One, the only phone now running Android 2.2.
But Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) has been working to adapt Android to run on its x86 platform, both for smartphones and PC form factors like netbooks and tablets. Intel has not significantly pursued the smartphone segment until now, but with its new power-efficient "Moorestown" Atom model, the world's largest chipmaker feels it can compete with ARM in these areas.
"As evident by our 'port of choice' software strategy, Intel supports our customers choice of operating environments and works to ensure that industry software runs best on Intel platforms," an Intel spokesperson told InternetNews.com.
Thus far, Intel has shied away from giving a timeline for release, although Renee James, Intel's senior vice president for software and services, told the Australian publication APC to expect a summer release.
"Our expectation is that [it] will be based on the Froyo release and will be available this summer to developers," she is quoted as saying. Intel officials confirmed the date to InternetNews.com.
James said porting Android hadn't been tremendously difficult, "as we have a lot experience in Linux." She also said all of the code Intel that creates will be fed back into Android's open development branch that will be created for x86 code and will be fully accessible to the Android developer community.
Intel shipped the Moorestown generation of Atom Z600 processors in May, promising a 50-fold improvement over the prior generation of the mobile Atom platform, which should make it more power-efficient for mobile phone users. However, Intel has not disclosed any licensees yet, as the company is unlikely to make any announcement until it is ready to go to market.
Intel faces two challenges: getting Linux onto netbooks, and Atom into smartphones. Netbooks have shifted to Windows and away from Linux, although that still leaves open the possibility of dual-boot, Atom-based netbooks running both Windows and Android.
Smartphones are another matter. There has not been an Atom-based smartphone on the market yet -- something that Intel really wants to change. Consequently, Intel thinks that Moorestown is the chip to help it grab that market share.