Intel, Google team to optimize Android for smartphones

Intel and Google announced on Tuesday that they would partner to optimize future versions of the Android OS for smartphones and other mobile devices using Intel chips.

Intel CEO Paul Otellini demonstrated a smartphone with the upcoming Medfield chip running on Android during a keynote at the Intel Developer Conference being held in San Francisco. However, Otellini didn’t mention the version of Android running on the smartphone. 

Intel wants to make x86 the architecture of choice for smartphones, and porting Android will provide a larger opportunity to the chip maker in the smartphone market, Otellini said.

“This is a significant step forward to bring Intel phones to market,” Otellini said.

Intel doesn’t have a presence in the smartphone market yet, but Otellini said a smartphone based on the chip would reach the market in the first quarter next year. Medfield includes a low-power Atom processor. A smartphone with the chip was due in the third quarter this year, but has been delayed multiple times. Intel also is holding a technical session at IDF to show Medfield running on tablets.

Intel and Google will work on optimizing “all” future Android releases for Intel mobile chips at the kernel level, and also in specific areas such as memory management and graphics, said Andy Rubin, senior vice president for mobile at Google, in an on-stage appearance.

Some versions of Android, such as Android 2.2, code-named Froyo, have already been ported to Intel. By porting all future Android versions, Intel and Google are now expanding their relationship, Otellini said.

Intel faces the tough task of unseating ARM, whose processors are found in most smartphones. Intel chips are considered more power-hungry than ARM processors, but the company hopes that it can establish a beachhead in the market as it continues to advance its manufacturing process to make faster, more efficient chips.

During the keynote Otellini also shared more details about the upcoming chip code-named Haswell, which is due in laptops by 2013. Haswell will achieve a 30 percent power reduction in standby compared with current Core i5 laptops that go into laptops. The company is engineering a new low-power framework that will enable “all-day usage” of laptops, Otellini said. 

The Haswell chips are targeted at ultrabooks, which Intel is promoting as a new category of thin and light PCs with tablet-like features. Intel hopes to deliver 10 days of standby time on always-connected ultrabooks using Haswell chips, Otellini said. 

The Haswell microarchitecture is a follow-up to Ivy Bridge, due early next year for ultrabooks, and also more power-efficient than current Intel Sandy Bridge chips.

Otellini also said Intel wants to drive power consumption of chips down to a point where solar cells could run computers. To illustrate Otellini’s point, an Intel engineer demonstrated a computer powered by a solar panel running a small animation. But once the solar source was blocked, the computer froze. Otellini said the point of the demonstration wasn’t to productize the prototype chip, but to show where Intel wants to take its chips on power consumption.

Haswell will be on ultrabooks and a range of other devices, the engineer said during the demonstration.

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Agam Shah
Agam Shah
Agam Shah is a reporter for the IDG News Service in New York. He covers hardware including PCs, servers, tablets, chips, semiconductors, consumer electronics and peripherals.

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