Intel is pushing its low power Atom processor line for Android-powered devices at the Intel Developer Forum in Beijing this week. The company delivered a presentation called “Developing and Optimizing Android for Intel Atom Processor-based Mobile Devices.”

Intel Atom Android

There aren’t a lot of surprises in the presentation, but Intel has been working with Google to optimize Android to run on x86 hardware for the past year or two. The latest Android emulator for Windows, Mac, and Linux allows developers to emulate an x86 processor while testing apps.

Intel points out that most Android apps can already run on Atom hardware without any modifications, but there are also tools available to port apps written in “native code” so they can also support x86 architecture.

Most importantly, Intel’s latest chips offer performance that’s on par with the fastest ARM-based processors, while consuming far less power than early Atom processors. This makes them viable choices for smartphones and tablets that don’t have space for enormous batteries.

Lenovo has already started showing off phones and tablets based on Intel’s new low power Medfield chips, but they have yet to hit the market.

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4 replies on “Intel pushes Atom chip for Android devices”

  1. Or vendors who aren’t married to Intel already can keep using ARM chips.  Come to think of it the new 28nm Krait and soon to be Cortex A15’s look like they offer as much or more performance than Atom, in the same or lower power envelopes, 
    depending on who you ask, they all definitely come with better support for different graphics chips that are more powerful than the SVG543 which wasn’t even cutting edge in this current gen of hardware, which can be found in Intel’s new SOC…   AND you don’t have to require any Native Code applications (read games) to work with the processors…

    If Intel could have had Atom slimmed down this far last year they might have had a lot of design wins.  My expectation as things are now is that they’ll get some wins from the Computer manufacturers who have firm ties to Intel, like Lenovo, as they try to move into the CE Computing space.  Otherwise I see ARM based solutions wiping the floor with Intel within the next 6 months, and everyone moving on…  There’s just not enough compelling about the Intel SOC to make OEMs move over to a single supplier chip with limited customization options when they have a fully customizable chip that can be fabbed by anyone.

    I don’t see what advantages Intel is bringing, other than x86, which given the fact that the code base is native to ARM, isn’t anything approaching an advantage.

    1. The Tegra 3, OMAP 44xx and Exynos 44xx offer equal or better performance than the Atom right now.  Go to Phoronix.com and check out the testing they did and it’s plain as day.  The A15 based chips like the Tegra 4, OMAP 55xx and Exynos 5520 as well as the quasi A15 chips like the Krait S4 will squash the Atom.  Intel is not even in the same league.  The fact that they even entered this space has sealed their fate.  Simply because ARM SoC manufacturers as well as ARM Holdings are going to step up their game even more to ensure that they will continue to reign supreme.

      1.  Inaccurate, examples like the ATOM Medfield is actually 1.3GHz single core, with burst mode of 1.6GHz, that’s being compared to dual and quad core ARM chips.

        Right now Intel only has dual core in their higher end ATOM lineup and up to 8 cores for the server market, neither of which are competing with ARM yet. 

        The upcoming dual core Medfield is mainly just planned for the Tablet market and shouldn’t effect the Smart Phone market.

        So the main advantage of ARM solutions right now is that they’re much more mainstream for the mobile market, with Intel only beginning to compete for the first time.  Much like how Nvidia when they first introduced the Tegra and shows slow beginnings are not indicative of how they will do in a year or two.

        While as already mentioned the Intel ATOM’s are still using pretty much the same architecture as when it was first introduced to the market in 2008.  This is like comparing the Cortex A15 to the older Cortex A8 based ARM chips and having the Cortex A8 solution still holds its own. 

        So having it even come in the same ball park is actually a testament to how much ARM still has to catch up for the higher performance range they’re only now entering.

        Mind beating the ATOM isn’t really hard, as that’s the bottom of Intel’s chip offerings, with the Core i-Series offering multiples times better performance that ARM is still years away from even getting close to.

        While the next gen ATOM’s coming out next year are Intel’s equivalent of a A15 update to the ATOM.  Introducing many of the technology they developed for Ivy Bridge to the ATOM. 

        Like Intel’s Tri-Gate Transistors, a HD 4000 based GMA, putting the entire lineup under SoC, offering a wider range of processor configurations, finally adding Out Of Order Processing to the ATOM, among many other improvements.

        While ARM manufacturers are having problems, the delay in moving to 28nm being the most outstanding right now, which is why many are still opting for 32nm.  Especially those who have yet to deal with the increased problem of power leakage as they continue to shrink the FAB.

        Even Apple is still on 45nm with their latest iPad and had to increase the battery size by 70% to compensate for the increased power consumption of the retina display and the quad core GPU’s requires.

        So they may up their game but it’s going to get harder for them here on out as ARM was designed for low power and low performance and need time to evolve to be able to apply itself to higher end applications.

        While Intel already dominates the higher end and just wants to start penetrating into the lower end and that’s going to be arguably easier for them to do than for ARM to keep on increasing its performance.

        Mind, ARM is still a 32bit architecture and only recently introduced designs for 64bit.  This means they’re still years away from going fully 64bit and for now we’re only going to see enhancements like 64bit memory management.

        While it’s not easy to continue providing increasing performance and still keep costs and power consumption low.  Also ARM customizations has the down side of increased hardware fragmentation.

        So it’s not like Intel doesn’t stand a chance, it’s just going to take awhile to see if they can really start competing in the mobile market or have to stay in the higher end PC market.

    2.  Well, while your assessment is pretty close for the remainder of this year.  You don’t seem to be factoring that Intel is giving their ATOM line a major upgrade in the beginning of next year.  The ATOM architecture will be basically getting its first major update since it was first released and introducing many of Intel’s latest technology to the ATOM.

      So your comparisons is limited to what Intel has to offer for the remainder of this year only, as we’ve yet to see how good the next gen offerings will be like.

      While as for what advantages Intel can start to offer, it’s what Chippy from UMPCPortal would call High Dynamic Range Computing (HDRC).  Unlike ARM, Intel is fully capable of scaling from the mobile range to the full desktop range. 

      This will be especially true if Windows 8 is successful, as x86 can offer legacy support where ARM can’t, and can provide the higher range performance that ARM is still many years away from being able to provide as their high end next gen offerings will only rival the present gen Intel ATOMs.

      MS in particular is patenting a way to easily switch between CPU’s when docking.  So could make a Windows system literally scale from mobile to laptop and even desktop by just docking it.

      The closest ARM based devices will get to this scaling is switching from a ARM to higher end Intel or AMD chip when docked but this will also involve switching from a mobile OS to a desktop one to fully take advantage of the switch.

      Though Google is making progress towards making Android a more desktop friendly OS, like with Webtop and similar UI optimizations that take over when docked that would allow Android to take advantage of such scaling but would still be more limited than switching to a true desktop OS that isn’t designed with the limits that a mobile OS will have to deal with no matter how the UI is altered and optimized,

      Failure of Windows 8 though could well give ARM the advantage.

      Intel though is hedging its bets with support for Android and of course the Tizen project.  They already bought a company last year that provides them the option to easily switch between two OS instantly, without rebooting. 

      While they are compensating for what advantages ARM has over them by keeping ahead of the manufacturing shrink curve by at least a year.

      So while ARM is heading towards 32 and 28nm productions, Intel is heading toward 22nm and that combined with the architectural updates could potentially start giving Intel the edge.

      Mind also that there have been problems with the 28nm production and Intel has strategically not helped ARM with this issue.  So time table for many gives them limited time for market penetration before Intel will be able to come out with their own 22nm chips and 14nm is scheduled for 2014.

      Also consider that it’s not the general consumer market at stake here but also the embedded and server markets, which could give Intel more of a advantage considering that x86 hardware can run pretty much any OS but ARM is still limited to OS already optimized for it. 

      While ARM is also depending on Windows 8 being a success to provide it a mainstream desktop OS to provide the ability to start competing in the traditional PC markets, and thus would also be negatively effected if Windows 8 fails.

      So while ARM is looking good for the rest of this year, it remains to be seen if that will remain true next year and Intel should never be underestimated.

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