Android ready to run on Atom chips
Honeycomb, to be ready for use with its Atom microprocessors. Android 3.0 has already been shown on ARM-based tablets, such as Motorola’s new Xoom tablet.
The popular Google software will also be ready for the latest family of Atom chips from Intel, called Oak Trail, according to Maulik Shah, an Intel representative.
The world’s largest chip maker ported Android to smartphones with its Atom microprocessors inside last April, as part of its long term vision of supplying the chips to the mobile phone market.
The smartphone market is currently dominated by microprocessors based on technology from ARM Holdings. ARM’s RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computing) chips use far less power than the x86-based chips Intel supplies.
Most mobile devices that run Android software use ARM-based microprocessors. Intel’s Atom is an x86-based processor, the most popular chip technology in personal computers. Software needs to be written for a specific chip architecture.
Oak Trail is already found in tablets such as Samsung Electronics’ Sliding PC 7 Series tablet, which carries a 1.66GHz Atom microprocessor and runs Windows 7.
Intel has an Avaya Flare tablet-like device on show at its booth at CES. The device has an Atom chip inside and uses an earlier version of Android, 2.1, which was codenamed Eclair.
Deb Kline, a spokeswoman for Avaya, said the 11.6-inch touchscreen tablet-like device is part of a bundle of media and communications products sold to businesses and is not sold separately. The company plans to offer its software to smartphone and tablet makers, but it currently has no plan to market its own tablet device.
She said the Flare gets about three hours of running time before it needs to be recharged, but clarified that it’s not built as a mobile device to be taken on the road. It is a portable device meant to be carried around an office and set in a recharging dock when not in use.
The device highlights the potential for Android tablets based on Atom hitting the market. It also highlights questions about Google’s work on mobile operating systems. The company built the Chrome OS for netbooks based on Atom processors, while Android was made for smartphones.
It appears both operating systems will be used on tablets, though currently only Android tablets such as Samsung’s Galaxy Tab have been launched.
Google originally designed Android to be used in smartphones with processors made with ARM technology, but since Android is open source software, other companies have changed it so it can be used in tablets and with other chip technologies.
Acer, the world’s second largest PC vendor, ported Android to netbooks based on Atom microprocessors last year. MIPS Technologies, which sells its own chips based on the MIPS (Microprocessor without Interlocked Pipeline Stages) architecture, has ported Android for use in a range of devices that use MIPS chips, including set top boxes, digital picture frames and home media centres.
The development is likely to be of interest for business users, as netbooks with Atom processors were a surprise hit among business users who wanted devices that were small and light, but inexpensive. The popularity of Android in the smart phone market will add to the attraction, as user acceptance will be high among the business audience.