Android in focus at Intel

Intel made a few important and fairly unambiguous statements Tuesday about the importance of the Android operating system going forward.

Intel is now moving not-so-subtly toward Android as the default operating system for handheld devices, as the chipmaker yields to market realities.

With Android leading Apple's iOS software in smartphone market share according to calculations by Gartner (and other market researchers), the Google operating system has plenty of momentum. That's not the case for Intel's in-house MeeGo operating system--which is not even a blip on the handheld device market-share radar screen--and is only staying in the public's eye because of Intel's stubborn support.

And Windows 7, which is not optimized for tablets, will never be a viable operating system for handheld devices (smartphones and tablets), despite attempts by some Asia-based device makers to market tablets.

Enter Android. On Tuesday, after Intel announced impressive earnings , CEO Paul Otellini described--during a conference call--pretty clearly to what degree Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) is now in focus at Intel. "We're actively doing the port" for Android 3.0 and "my sense is the bulk of the units, the [models], this year will be Android," he said, referring to tablets using Intel's Atom processor. Almost in the same breath he mentioned that Intel "lost Nokia," implying that the chipmaker also lost an important partner for phones based on MeeGo-- which had been launched as a joint Intel-Nokia project .

And that's not all Otellini said about the loss of Nokia and future smartphones. Intel is now "focusing on [telecommunications] carriers who want their own devices and also on handset manufacturers," he said. It's probably safe to say that more than a few of those handset makers will be using Android.

So, the question is, as Intel revs up its handheld push with future Atom processors--which should include dual-core variants of the "Medfield" chip--will this make Android phones an even more potent rival to Apple's iPhone and, down the road, result in compelling Android-based tablet designs that begin to chip away at Apple's tablet dominance?

We may not get the answer until 2012, when Intel is expected to put its best foot forward with highly power efficient but relatively speedy smartphone and tablet chips.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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