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9/13/2011
05:17 PM
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Android To Run On Intel Chips

Intel is working with Google to bring x86 hardware support to future versions of Android to boost the chip maker's presence in the mobile market.

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Google and Intel on Tuesday said that the two companies will work together to ensure that future versions of Google's Android operating system function on Intel's Atom processors.

The partnership will help Intel compete against ARM chips, which have been supported by Android since 2008. It also underscores the fact that the "Wintel" alliance between Microsoft and Intel isn't what it used to be.

Intel CEO Paul Otellini showed off a smartphone running Android on a Medfield chip at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco on Tuesday, though details about the specific version of Android were not revealed.

He characterized the partnership as a step toward bringing Intel-powered phones to market.

Google SVP of mobile Andy Rubin showed up too, signaling the two companies' continued commitment to a relationship that encompasses Intel's involvement in Chrome OS, Google TV, and its effort to port Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" to the x86 chip architecture. Rubin said that all future versions of Android will be optimized for x86. Presumably this includes the next major Android release, known as Ice Cream Sandwich, which is expected before the end of the year.

Intel has had trouble convincing mobile device makers to use its x86-based chips because of their power consumption characteristics. Instead, many have preferred the ARM architecture.

Apple, for example, bought chip design company PA Semi in 2008 and has been deploying its own ARM-based A-series chips in its mobile devices. Intel is reportedly interested in manufacturing Apple's chip designs, a testament to the direction in which the mobile market is moving.

Even Microsoft is moving to support ARM chips in Windows 8, in addition to x86 chips. The company provided details about its ARM support plans at its BUILD conference on Tuesday.

To compete more affectively against ARM designs, Intel is betting on its Medfield chip platform, which includes a low-power Atom design for mobile phones, and on chips arriving in 2012 based on a 22-nm manufacturing process.

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