Google said today that it going to add support for Intel’s Atom processors to the Android OS. Until now, all Android-based smartphones and tablets have run on chips designed by ARM Holdings.
The announcement was long on superlatives but short on details. “Combining Android with Intel’s low power smartphone roadmap opens up more opportunity for innovation and choice,” said Andy Rubin, Senior Vice President of Mobile at Google. “This collaboration will drive the Android ecosystem forward.”
Still, the companies made it clear that their plan is to bring about Android-based smartphones running Intel processors. Curiously, no mention of tablets was made.
Speaking at the Intel Developers Conference, going on now in San Francisco, Rubin and Intel CEO Paul Otellini showed off a prototype handset running Android OS 2.3 (Gingerbread) on an current-generation “Medfield” Atom processor.
Adding support for Intel’s chips doesn’t mean Google is leaving ARM-based ones behind. Instead, device makers will have a choice between the two.
Intel vs. ARM
Intel has had the lion’s share of the PC and laptop processor market for decades, but it has had little or no success in smartphones. It’s been trying to change that for years, however.
Although the finical details of the Google/Intel agreement were not made public, it’s likely Intel is heavily sponsoring the effort to bring Android to its chips. The company surely hopes to recoup this cost by selling chips to device makers.
Intel isn’t alone in extending its reach, however. There is going to be a version of Microsoft’s Windows 8 for ARM processors. The battle between ARM and Intel continues on more fronts.
ARM Holding isn’t was well know as its rival because it doesn’t actually make processors. Instead it designs them and then licenses these to other companies. Apple, Samsung, NVIDIA and Texas Instruments all produce ARM-based ships.