Intel, Google announce mobile partnership for Atom Android smartphones

Posted:
in iPad edited January 2014
Intel and Google have announced a partnership to enable the use of Android software on Intel's Atom mobile x86-compatible processors, in hopes the chips can wrestle market share from the ARM processor family now dominating mobile devices.



According to a report by Reuters, the two companies "will work together to optimize future versions of Google's Android mobile software for Intel's Atom processors, hoping to speed the development and time-to-market of future Intel-powered smartphones."



The vast majority of smartphones, not to mention tablets and other mobile devices, use processors based on the ARM architecture and built by companies including Texas Instruments and Samsung.



Intel's troubled history of pushing Atom



Intel launched its Moblin (Mobile Linux) initiative in 2007 aimed at putting its Atom chips in netbooks running Linux. Microsoft then pushed its PC partners to use Windows XP rather than Linux for netbooks, a win for Intel because Microsoft's Windows platform only runs on x86 processors like Intel's Atom and not ARM. However, netbooks as a PC segment have since seen market growth collapse.



Intel has not been happy with Microsoft's efforts to support Atom however, complaining early last year that "Microsoft hasn't been quite as aggressive as we might have hoped at supporting Atom, especially in the embedded space and that's why we came up with our platform Moblin," in the words of Intel's James Reinders.



At the time, Intel had just announced a partnership to merge Moblin with Nokia's Maemo, resulting in a project called MeeGo. Reinders told Tech Radar at that time that "the progress of Windows 7 still limited - it doesn't go all the places we think Atom will go," and suggested that Android and iOS weren't as powerful as Intel wanted to see either. "We feel people want an operating system that is more powerful on these devices. Pushing Moblin is definitely about getting more choice it that space."



Intel demonstrated an Atom-based MeeGo tablet prototype concept last summer, and Nokia ultimately shipped two MeeGo devices, the N900 Internet Tablet (similar to an iPod touch, with smartphone calling features), and the N9 smartphone. Early this year however, Nokia disbanded its MeeGo team, limited release of the new N9, and announced a partnership with Microsoft to focus on Windows Phone 7 devices. Currently, Microsoft's latest smartphone platform exclusively targets ARM chips.



With Apple, Microsoft, Nokia and RIM all committed to ARM, Intel has limited options for pushing Atom on mobile devices; Android appears to be the only viable platform remaining to target. Intel hasn't announced any vendors that will actually use its Atom chips to power Android-based smartphones, but it hopes that Atom based smartphones could reach the market by early next year.



Partnering with Google gives Intel the credibility to suggest that Atom chips are plausible components for smartphone makers. Google itself expects to soon own Motorola Mobility, giving it the power to release new versions of Android exclusively on its own Atom hardware with a first to market advantage, if Intel were actually able to deliver a hardware advantage to using its Atom chips in mobile devices.



Apple picks ARM over Atom



Apple was a cofounder of the original ARM mobile architecture in the early 90s, and used early versions in its Newton MessagePads. It then returned to ARM chips in building the iPod in 2001. In an early design phase of the iPad, however, Apple examined Intel's new Atom line, then called Silverthorne.



The primary benefit of Intel's Atom chips is backward compatibility with its desktop line of x86 processors, like those used in both Apple's Macs and in Windows PCs. Apple's Mac OS X was designed to be largely processor agnostic however, enabling the company to deliver an ARM version of its OS for mobile devices under the brand iOS.



Apple ultimately decided that Atom wasn't efficient enough to run the iPad, and instead developed its own new ARM chip design it branded A4. That chip was also used to power iPhone 4. Apple subsequently developed an A5 successor for use in iPad 2, and is rumored to be evaluating ARM processor designs for use in future highly mobile Macs, where efficiency may be more valuable than performance.







While Apple aggressively moved its Mac platform to Intel in 2006 and has since demonstrated unique applications of Intel chips in systems ranging from the Mac Pro to the Mac mini to the MacBook Air, Intel has worked to find alternative hardware vendors capable of building everything from mini PCs to "ultralight" notebooks to the Atom-based tablet Apple opted not to build.



Apple actively removed support for Atom processors in Mac OS X 10.6.2, making its operating system software unable to work on other makers' Atom-based netbooks. Last year, Apple also shifted its Apple TV product from a low powered Intel chip to ARM in order to help make the device smaller, cheaper and run cooler.



Microsoft has also announced efforts to make portions of its Windows 8 run on ARM chips sometime next year, enabling its software to run on more efficient hardware than Intel can currently deliver.



This summer, a report indicated Intel was interested in building future Apple-designed ARM chips, which may allow Apple to transition its CPU fabrication business away from Samsung.



At the same time, Intel's chief executive Paul Otellini told reporters after the announcement that "the smartphone business is not established in terms of the ultimate shake-out of who's going to win and who is going to lose.



"You saw what happened in terms of how fast Android took share from Apple," he said, suggesting that Apple had lost market share to Android in smartphones, something that is not the case.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 48
    jd_in_sbjd_in_sb Posts: 1,495member
    Intel will have a tough time getting hardware manufacturers to switch to a chip architecture that everyone knows is inferior to ARM.
  • Reply 2 of 48
    Watch your back.



    Signed, Apple
  • Reply 3 of 48
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post




    Intel and Google have announced a partnership










    Apple can no longer rely on a company like Intel for strategic materials.



    Apple should go ahead and buy AMD. That way they control their own destiny, and won't get stabbed in the back.
  • Reply 4 of 48
    irnchrizirnchriz Posts: 1,591member
    The intel chips in question are the new medfield chips which are low power and can run at up to 1.5ghz in smartphones. They are 32nm process SoC, significantly smaller than the moorstown atom chips and on a par with ARM for power consumption both in idle and under load.



    The true benefit is more for windows tablets as they are x86 compliant and will run existing windows applications where as the applications will need to be recompiled/rewritten for windows ARM tablets.



    Interesting times ahead and it will keep arm and intel on their toes which is good for the consumer.
  • Reply 5 of 48
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jd_in_sb View Post


    Intel will have a tough time getting people to switch to a chip that everyone knows is inferior to ARM.



    An overwhelming majority of customers don't know or care which chipset are inside their hardware. Features and easy of use is what most people care about in purchasing hardware.



    Honestly, I would love to see some serious competition to ARM chips. Intel was slacking off in the CPU department for a while until AMD gave them a run for their money. Now look at Intel -- back on the saddle and ensuring that they stay ahead of AMD.
  • Reply 6 of 48
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by irnchriz View Post


    The intel chips in question are the new medfield chips which are low power and can run at up to 1.5ghz in smartphones. They are 32nm process SoC, significantly smaller than the moorstown atom chips and on a par with ARM for power consumption both in idle and under load.



    The true benefit is more for windows tablets as they are x86 compliant and will run existing windows applications where as the applications will need to be recompiled/rewritten for windows ARM tablets.



    Interesting times ahead and it will keep arm and intel on their toes which is good for the consumer.



    1) ARM and Intel are extremely different. ARM manufactures exactly 0 chips. They provide an instruction set, and reference designs, but it is other companies that manufacture and design ARM chips (e.g., Apple/Samsung, Qualcomm, TI, Nvidia). Intel designs and manufactures chips completely on their own. In the ARM space, Qualcomm keeps Nvidia on its toes whether Intel exists or not.



    2) The x86 architecture is an inefficient and inferior architecture. Its success lay in how cheap and widespread it was. However, in the mobile space, the backward compatibility benefits don't exist anymore, so Intel is essentially starting from scratch. There is no reason to believe that Medfield can catch up with ARM anytime soon.



    3) YOu are dead on about the "true benefit". The advantage will almost certainly lie with Tablets which can now run both Android, and Windows. This hybrid space will be an interesting one to watch.
  • Reply 7 of 48
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by irnchriz View Post


    on a par with ARM for power consumption both in idle and under load.



    Any links?
  • Reply 8 of 48
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,330member
    Hmm. And wasn't Windows 8 demo'ed on a ARM?



    If Apple need to use Intel, they will. It's just a recompile.
  • Reply 9 of 48
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by irnchriz View Post


    The intel chips in question are the new medfield chips which are low power and can run at up to 1.5ghz in smartphones. They are 32nm process SoC, significantly smaller than the moorstown atom chips and on a par with ARM for power consumption both in idle and under load.



    The true benefit is more for windows tablets as they are x86 compliant and will run existing windows applications where as the applications will need to be recompiled/rewritten for windows ARM tablets.



    Interesting times ahead and it will keep arm and intel on their toes which is good for the consumer.



    If it's true that medfield equals or exceeds ARM's performance/watt, then Apple can easily switch. Apple has enough experience in moving from one architecture to another that it's largely a non-issue.



    However, given Intel's latest approach toward Apple (such as $300 M to fund ultra book R&D), I suspect that there would have to be a BIG advantage for Apple to even consider switching to Atom. "about the same" isn't going to do it.
  • Reply 10 of 48
    This is just a case of leaving your eggs in any basket you can find. Both of them. Clueless or desperation? Anyway, they already made roads so economic arguments dictate to just go ahead. More likely this ended up in the diff. market altogether i.e. embedded.
  • Reply 11 of 48
    With the Android NDK being used heavily for games, this will drive a huge fragmentation issue for users. Dalvik code will have no issue but most games have huge aspects developed with the Android NDK.
  • Reply 12 of 48
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,330member
    Guys. Apple still use Intel in their Mac line. They probably would use Atom now if it worked. They collaborate on Thunderbolt. Intel is no more stabbing Apple in the back with the ultrabook then it stabbed MS in the back when it wooed Appke to move from PPC - and thank God they did.



    If you ever want to see what a x86 iPhone app runs like ask a dev to run the simulator.
  • Reply 13 of 48
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,330member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Steven N. View Post


    With the Android NDK being used heavily for games, this will drive a huge fragmentation issue for users. Dalvik code will have no issue but most games have huge aspects developed with the Android NDK.



    Presumably just a recompile?
  • Reply 14 of 48
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by asdasd View Post


    Hmm. And wasn't Windows 8 demo'ed on a ARM?



    If Apple need to use Intel, they will. It's just a recompile.



    Windows 8 was announced to target ARM someday in the next year or two. The demo tablet Microsoft used to show off Windows 8 today was a Core i3 device, closer to being a MacBook Air than and iPad. Clearly far more expensive than anyone is going to pay for a tablet, and the core reason why Windows 8 was announced to target ARM in the first place.



    Moving Windows 8 to ARM is not a simple process however, because its OS and app software has all sorts of dependencies upon x86. Thus the need for moving Windows from Win32 apps to the new Zune/Metro web layer of animated touch stuff. But then it's not really "Windows" anymore, it's something new.



    Microsoft could have just as well bought webOS and called it Windows 8. AND had both a product this year and an eager licensee... HP!
  • Reply 15 of 48
    I still think the next lever to fall into place for Apple is to sign a partnership to offer the Mac line the option of either Intel or AMD.
  • Reply 16 of 48
    tbelltbell Posts: 3,146member
    Apple uses ARM for one reason. The technology is better for mobile computing. Intel's offerings use more power, and runs hotter. If Intel offered a competitive offering, Apple would undoubtedly look at it. Problem is that ARM is becoming quite entrenched. It will be hard for Intel to offer a significant reason for supporting Intel's offerings.



    People might not care about the underlying technology, but they do care about things like battery usage and weight of the device.







    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Negafox View Post


    An overwhelming majority of customers don't know or care which chipset are inside their hardware. Features and easy of use is what most people care about in purchasing hardware.



    Honestly, I would love to see some serious competition to ARM chips. Intel was slacking off in the CPU department for a while until AMD gave them a run for their money. Now look at Intel -- back on the saddle and ensuring that they stay ahead of AMD.



  • Reply 17 of 48
    Oh, Intel. Without x86, you would be nothing.
  • Reply 18 of 48
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ConradJoe View Post


    Apple can no longer rely on a company like Intel for strategic materials.



    Apple should go ahead and buy AMD. That way they control their own destiny, and won't get stabbed in the back.



    What an odd perspective. Intel is not a division of Apple. Intel is not beholden to Apple. Intel provides building blocks. To Apple, and to Apple's competitors.



    Consumers like you and me benefit from additional competition in the smartphone space. Phone makers like Apple benefit from additional competition in the building block space.



    Additional competition for building blocks help Apple control its own destiny. Perhaps you don't remember ADB, NuBus, 1394, or countless other proprietary Apple technologies. That was Apple owning the technologies that it used, rather than using solutions provided by others and used by others in the industry.
  • Reply 19 of 48
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 21,291member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by TBell View Post


    Apple uses ARM for one reason. The technology is better for mobile computing. Intel's offerings use more power, and runs hotter. If Intel offered a competitive offering, Apple would undoubtedly look at it. Problem is that ARM is becoming quite entrenched. It will be hard for Intel to offer a significant reason for supporting Intel's offerings.



    People might not care about the underlying technology, but they do care about things like battery usage and weight of the device.



    http://www.anandtech.com/show/4172/i...ipsets-in-2012



    I don't think it's yet ready to kick ARM butt. Gotta start somewhere tho, and if they can get some market success with Medfield, watch out for Silvermont. Anandtech seems impressed anyway. . .

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/4333/i...m-architecture
  • Reply 20 of 48
    jd_in_sbjd_in_sb Posts: 1,495member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Negafox View Post


    An overwhelming majority of customers don't know or care which chipset are inside their hardware. Features and easy of use is what most people care about in purchasing hardware.



    Honestly, I would love to see some serious competition to ARM chips. Intel was slacking off in the CPU department for a while until AMD gave them a run for their money. Now look at Intel -- back on the saddle and ensuring that they stay ahead of AMD.



    I was referring to hardware manufacturers. I agree consumers would not know or care what the chip is.
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