Intel wants to make it easier for device makers to build Android tablets with Intel chips. To that end, the company has launched a new program called Intel Reference Design for Android.
The idea is that Intel will provide a branch of Google Android to device makers that’s guaranteed to work with a certain set of hardware. So rather than spend time trying to find a radio, digitizer, and other components that’ll support Google’s operating system (or tweaking Android to work with your hardware), you can just pick your parts from a list offered by Intel and know that they’ll work.
Intel says it’ll offer Android updates within two weeks of Google making new releases available, which means that not only will device makers always be able to ship hardware with the latest version of Android, but they’ll also be able to offer software updates to customers that buy their tablets.
While this program could lead to a lot of Intel-powered Android tablets looking alike, Intel isn’t just providing a single reference design for building a tablet. Instead the company will enable tablet manufacturers to choose from a list of qualified components. Mix and match them and you’ve got a recipe for something (kind of) unique… and of course you can throw your own brand name on the back of the tablet.
Intel will also manage the Google Mobile Services certification processor for its partners, which means they won’t have to spend as much time and money testing software against hardware and then applying for Google certification.
Intel already offers similar reference platforms for Android phones and for some other products such as the Classmate PC line of notebooks and tablets.
Makes perfect sense to me!
Intel’s action isn’t anything new. Intel has been doing this step
ever since it tried to organize the x86 laptop market with a Pentium
M reference design. The Pentium M reference design resulted
in a flood of no name copies, which deflated the average
selling price as any company could now crank out notebooks
simply by following Intel’s recipe, further commoditizing notebooks.
Intel goes even further back if you consider it had been making
PC motherboards since at least the Pentium days.
The big name brand laptop makers, however, didn’t follow the design,
thereby differentiating themselves.
The winners? Intel, of course, as it only wants to sell more chips,
and consumers, as they had greater choice of compliant devices,
and the quality of no-name products improved.
The losers? Manufacturers, who saw their already thin margins
vaporize. The joke then was that you made more money running
a supermarket than making laptops. Ditto now for tablets.
While this is a good thing people seem to be reading far more significance into it than it really has. It really does nothing to ensure Android updates except for the few OEMs who strictly stick to the reference design. Since that eliminates distinguishing product features and innovation it will probably only apply to a small class of shipped devices.
Did you not read the third from last paragraph? The reference design includes sourcing multiple parts in multiple configurations… It’s not a one size fits all offering!
Time will tell. I agree this is a welcome tend (rather than a singular event) but it still sounds like nothing more than a generic tablet platform.
I too think this might turn out to be bigger than most people will realize right now. It’s a very clever move by Intel to leverage their strength against ARM. It also provides good benefit to everyone involved. Intel, Google, the builder, and the consumer.
I think it leaves a lot of room to differentiate as Intel is just providing the chips mostly. So you could probably have a wide variety of screens. Certainly any size battery you’d like. Speakers as well. Basically every interface between the user and the tablet should be very customizable. It’s the drive-train which stays steady and even that will have variation.
At least that is how the announcement makes it seem. This is a large difference from something like the Intel reference Chromebooks – which they will provide fully formed for companies to badge.
As a consumer, the idea I get guaranteed updates is huge. And it makes a very strong argument for newer or unknown name makers. I don’t have to know much about them or their history providing updates if I’ve got Intel and Google saying it will happen.
For Intel, they sell lots of hardware.
For Google, they cut down on perception of fragmentation. It actually cuts down on real fragmentation but the way Google has shifted features out of the core and into apps this simply isn’t as important as it once was.
For builders they get greatly reduced costs and time to market.
It’s really quite brilliant.
This is more important than it seems….
I agree. The Achilles’ Heel of all Android toys is poor OS upgradability because of lack of standardization. It’s the one thing that places the x86 platform above ARM. Goog is doing something about this with the Android One initiative, but for now that doesn’t apply to tablets. More than OS updates, is the possibility of user-installable peripheral drivers, ie the same capability in Windows. If Intel can get the ball rolling on this, it would be a major boost to its adoption efforts.
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