Google has announced a partnership with Intel. The two companies will be working together to tune the architecture of Android to the next generation of Intel Atom processors. Initial Atom-powered Android devices will be released in the first half of 2012.
Google's Atomic Devices
Google and Intel are taking part in a "joint effort is designed to speed time-to-market of Intel technology-based smartphones running the Android platform," according to the press release. This will primarily mean tailoring the Android system for Intel compatibility.
Announcing the partnership, Intel's CEO Paul Otellini stated that initial devices should appear in the first half of 2012. These devices will be running a new processor known as the "Medfield," which will be part of the Atom family, according to Venture Beat.
The exact manufacturer for these devices wasn't mentioned, but early speculation points to the possibility of Google – using the newly acquired Motorola Mobility hardware – making the phones themselves. In any case, the partnership represents much-needed opportunity for Intel. After losing Nokia, their primary partner, to ARM Holdings, Intel has an anorexically thin presence in the smartphone and tablet markets.
Google has partnered with Intel before, having collaboratively adjusted the architecture of Chrome OS and Google TV to support the Intel Atom chipset.
ARM vs Atom
The new Atom-based systems will have more processor capabilities than ARM devices, giving a higher top-end performance and allowing developers to use the x86 architecture (ARM runs off of a 32-bit RISC system). However, ARM devices remain the most power-efficient systems, offering up to 233Mhz/watt compared with Intel's current 166Mhz/watt.
Intel's next generation of devices, Android customization, and the increasing performance demands on mobile devices may give Intel the in they need for the mobile processor market.
For Google, the partnership doesn't mean "choosing Intel" – just more options for manufacturers and, thus, Android developers and users. "Combining Android with Intel's low-power smartphone roadmap opens up more opportunity for innovation and choice," said Andy Rubin, Google's VP of Mobile. "This collaboration will drive the Android ecosystem forward."