AMD Backing Project To Bring Android To PCs

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AMD is said to be helping with an unofficial project designed to port Android onto x86-based PCs

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) is reportedly backing an open-source project that is looking to port Google’s Android operating system onto PCs powered by x86-based processors.

Meanwhile, officials with AMD rival Intel are saying that the goal of their joint efforts with Google is not to bring Android to PCs, but to enable it to run on mobile computing devices – specifically smartphones and tablets – that are powered by Intel’s Atom platform.

Without Google’s blessing

The open-source project Android-x86, which AMD is backing with money, equipment and people, is being led by developer Chih-Wei Huang. He told The Register that AMD had donated two tablets and has a couple of engineers helping with the project. With that backing, the porting of Android to AMD’s x86-based “Brazos” platform is mostly complete and the source code is now available.

The project – which is not authorised by Google – is looking to port the Ice Cream Sandwich version of Android to the x86 platform, according to Huang.

The Android-x86 project would enable PC users to run Android on their systems, which now are dominated by Microsoft’s Windows OS. The effort is also the latest illustration of the on-going erosion of the once-dominant Wintel architecture. This has reigned in the PC space for decades but has seen pressure from such areas as Android and smaller, more energy-efficient mobile chips based on the architecture from ARM Holdings.

Both Microsoft and Intel have looked to expand their respective reaches into the booming mobile computing space of smartphones and tablets. The market is dominated by Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems, and ARM-based chips from the likes of Nvidia, Qualcomm and Samsung Electronics.

Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 OS will be designed to run not only on PCs, but also on tablets that run on either the x86 platform or system-on-a-chip (SoC) architectures, particularly ARM’s.

X86 on mobiles

Intel is looking to leverage its x86 technology – not only in its Core processors but also its Atom platform – to push its way into the tablet and smartphone markets. It is also working with Google to optimise Android to run on tablets and smartphones that are powered by Atom chips. Intel executives intend to have Atom-powered smartphones out on the market in 2012.

Intel reportedly has little interest in bringing Android to the PC space, and apparently is not interested in contributing to a project that could fuel the fragmentation of the Android OS. In his interview with The Register, Huang said he had contacted Intel about the Android-x86 project, but had gotten only negative responses.

“AMD provides great support to us, including devices donation and engineer’s support,” Huang said in a thread on the project’s forum. “On the other hand, Intel still refuses to provide any help to this project. They closed all contact windows I’ve ever tried.”

In an interview with EE Times, Alec Gefrides, manager of Intel’s Google Programme Office, said that Intel and Google are focusing on running Android on x86-based smartphones and tablets, not PCs.

“If you pull the x86 version of Android down from the AOSP [Google’s official Android Open Source Project] and compile it, it will run on any x86 device,” Gefrides said. “But that’s not the intent, neither ours nor Google’s. Our focus is to get phones and tablets on our Atom product line up and running on Android. That’s what we’ve been focused on, that’s what we’ve been working with Google on.”

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