At Day One of this year’s Intel Developer Forum, Senior Vice President of Mobile for Google, Andy Rubin, announced that all future versions of Android will be optimised to run on Intel chips. The announcement came alongside Intel CEO, Paul Otellini, showing off Intel’s first reference designs for its Medfield powered tablets and phones.
Up until now, all Android tablets – and the iPad – have been powered by chips based on ARM designs. These are fundamentally different to the x86 architecture designs employed by Intel, with the former having been designed from the ground up to be low power – they’ve just become faster in recent years. Conversely, Intel has been working to reduce the power load of its fundamentally speedier chips so that they too can fit into phones and tablets.
The result of this work is the upcoming Medfield chip – a variation of Intel’s Atom designs – that will find its way into tablets next year and phones in the future. Intel showed off reference designs for how such devices may look and, somewhat unsurprisingly, they looked very similar to existing Android models.
We didn’t get a close look at the phone but from a distance it’s general proportions seemed entirely what you’d expect of a modern smartphone. Meanwhile the tablet screen was around 10in across and looked consistent with 1,280 x 800 res screens seen on most current Android competitors. Most notably, though, it was nice and thin, and the Intel branded patterns on the back looked rather nice as well.
This announcement also coincides with Microsoft showcasing it’s first demos of Windows 8 running on ARM chips, completing the breakup of the long-standing exclusive WinTel partnership – soon you’ll be able to run Android or Windows on pretty much anything you please.
Paul Otellini led proceedings and also talked at length about the company’s other upcoming developments, including its 3D transistor design – which we’ll be learning more about later today at a deep dive session – and its Haswell chip design that will reduce standby power consumption by 20 time, allowing for 10 days of connected standby time. That is, the device will be able to keep updated while sleeping.
Of course the fact that an Intel chip may well sit at the heart of your next phone isn’t necessarily something to get excited about but if it can truly deliver the battery life and handset design we’ve come expect while providing a performance boost, we’ll gladly cheer its arrival.