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Intel trying to catch-up in mobile market, begins porting Jelly Bean

Companies like Nvidia, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments are jumping into the Windows 8 revolution which is caused by Microsoft’s announcement that their next version of Windows operating system will be supporting ARM based processors. In the meanwhile, Intel hardly has any presence in the mobile market. Intel is broadening its x86 architecture to reach the mobile world, and the recently announced Medfield platform reconfirms the effort. Medfield based phone, Intel AZ210 manufactured by Taiwanese Manufacturer Gigabyte, went on sale in India as Xolo X900 and Orange San Diego in the United Kingdom. The phone runs Android as its operating system.

Now, Intel has announced that they are porting Google’s latest iteration of Android mobile operating system, the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, to work on smartphones and tablets which are using Intel’s low power Atom processors. Intel, however, didn’t tell when the port effort will be completed and installed on various products.

“Intel continues to work closely with Google to enable future versions of Android, including Jelly Bean, on our family of low power Atom processors,” said Suzy Greenberg

The above mentioned medfield based phone, Intel Xolo X900, runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread out of the box, and the company has promised to rollout Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich in the near future, but no time frame has been given. It seems like the devices will receive direct upgrade to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.

Besides Lava and Orange marketing the Intel AZ210 in India and UK respectively, Lenovo has also launched an Intel Inside smartphone in China which runs a custom Android ROM. Even Motorola, which is now owned by Google, is planning to launch smartphone and tablets with Intel Inside and Android operating system later this year.

As of now, the whole mobile market is dominated by ARM. Intel, despite being a microprocessor giant, has little to no market share in this field. Google’s recently launched tablet, the Nexus 7, became the first tablet to run Android 4.1 Jelly Bean out of the box, and it is also based on quad core ARM architecture. Other manufacturers who are ARM licensees are yet to roll out the new operating system. ARM apparently has 290 semiconductor vendors licensing its technology which are addressing the needs of various segments of device.

Laurence Bryant pointed out that, across the various platforms in which ARM operates (iOS, Android, Windows Phone and more), there had been 37 billion apps downloaded, 1 billion ebooks downloaded and that there is a choice of more than a million apps. “It’s all about this great ecosystem built around one architecture that drives us forward as an industry,” he said.

In the meantime, ARM’s rival MIPS, whose processors are used in several low cost tablets are also working towards porting Jelly Bean in order to have it boot on its new processors and older predecessors.

Intel’s Android port will be mostly used by smartphones and tablet devices that use low power Atom processor, also called as Medfield. Few tablets are slated to launch with Medfield chip in core, and one 10 inch tablet device called Vizio has already been confirmed to make a launch soon.
ARM has upset Intel by entering the Windows market, however, Intel is already working on next gen Atom chips, code named as Clover Trail. Clover Trail will be exclusively used for Atom based tablets that will be running upcoming Windows 8 operating system. It should be noted that Intel isn’t porting Android for next-gen Atom chips specifically and will be using Windows 8 to gain market shares in the mobile device market. Windows RT will be supporting ARM processors, so Intel will be attacking ARM head on there. This is what Laurence Bryant, director of Mobile Solutions at ARM had to say about ARM architecture’s flexibility

“We’ve got this scalable architecture and that’s what is fundamentally great about the ARM platform,” he said. “We can take a solution from a smartphone and deliver that same always-on, always-connected experience to new form factors and computing environments.

In the race, ARM is way ahead of Intel as some tablets which are ARM based have already received Android 4.1 Jelly Bean update. Intel on the other hand is trying to entice developers to code games for Android on Atom processors by supporting a contest where in which Intel will award $29,000 USD in cash to winner who creates best game optimized for Intel’s architecture. Contestants can run the code on an Android 4.0 emulator.

Google has announced that they will be releasing an Android Platform Development Kit (PDK) so that manufacturers can customize the operating system in order to optimize it for their hardware.

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