Intel: ‘Clover Trail’ Atom Chips Will Support Linux, Android

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While the initial ‘Clover Trail’ Atom processors will focus on Windows 8, a future version will be Linux and Android-friendly, according to Intel

Intel has said its upcoming low-power “Clover Trail” Atom chip platform will support Linux and Google’s Android operating system, but only after focusing first on Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 OS.

Intel executives at last week’s Intel Developer Forum reportedly caused a stir within the open-source community by saying that the Clover Trail chips, aimed at tablets, would be optimised only for Windows 8, which is due to be released on 26 October by longtime Intel partner Microsoft. Any Atom-based tablet development for Android and Linux would be on the current “Medfield” chips, they said.

Open source anger

The announcement kicked up harsh reaction from open-source fans, some of whom said Intel was only trying to help Microsoft get its new tablet-optimised operating system off the ground at the expense of Android. Online forums lit up with messages from angry posters.

“This is x86, which is supposed to be an open platform,” one poster, named Grogan, said in a 14 September post on the BitBenderForum site.”Why in the Hell would they do this, other than dirty dealings with Microsoft?”

It didn’t help that on the same day that Intel executives talked about Clover Trail, officials at rival AMD said that their upcoming low-power “Hondo” accelerated processing unit (APU) also initially will be found in Windows 8 tablets.

However, an Intel spokesperson told media outlets in an emailed statement on 17 September that the company has “plans for another version of this platform directed at Linux/Android; however we are not commenting on the platform specifics or market segments that at this time”.

Both Intel and Microsoft are trying to make inroads into a mobile device market that is dominated by others. Windows 8, with its touch capabilities and other new features, is aimed at the booming tablet market dominated by Apple’s iOS-based iPad and the various tablets from other manufacturers running Android.

Microsoft also is coming out with a version of the software – called Windows RT – that will run on ARM-based systems.

Mobile foothold

For its part, Intel is trying to gain a foothold in the markets for smartphones and tablets, most of which now run on chips designed by ARM Holdings and made by the likes of Samsung Electronics, Nvidia, Texas Instruments and Qualcomm. Making inroads into those spaces is important for Intel as the PC market continues to struggle, even as the chip maker tries to bolster it with its Intel-based Ultrabooks push.

Ultrabooks are very thin and light systems that are designed to offer the same capabilities as traditional laptops along with such features as touch, always connected and long battery life that are found in tablets.

Intel is aiming its Core and Atom chips at the tablet space, and by teaming up with Microsoft on the initial release of Clover Trail-based tablets, Intel may be giving Wintel users interested in a tablet an x86-based alternative to the ARM-powered systems that are out on the market. According to Intel, there are about 20 tablet designs in the works featuring Windows 8 and Clover Trail Atom chips.

The Clover Trail system-on-a-chip (SoC), like the current Atom Z2460 Medfield chips (which support Android), will be made on a 32-nanometre manufacturing process, but will feature two cores instead of just one, and will offer greater graphics capabilities and longer battery life.

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