Intel's Galileo aims x86 chips at Arduino hardware hackers

In partnership with the Arduino project popular among hobbyists and students, Intel will sell small computer systems with its 32-bit Quark chip.

Intel's Arduino-compatible Galileo board uses its Pentium-class, 32-bit Quark processor.

Determined to carve out a niche for itself in the low-power device market, Intel on Thursday announced a partnership to bring its small Quark processors to the Arduino world of hardware hobbyists.

Intel missed out on the first years of the mobile-phone and tablet revolution, which has been powered instead by processors whose designs are licensed from ARM Holdings. Arduino devices use even smaller, less powerful devices today, Atmel's 8-bit microcontrollers.

Through a partnership with Arduino announced at the Maker Faire in Rome, though, Intel will build Arduino-compatible electronics boards called Galileo that use its 32-bit Pentium-class Quark processor. It'll begin selling the boards in November and is working with 17 universities to incorporate Galileo into classroom projects.

Intel's Pentium-class, 32-bit Quark processor, a system-on-a-chip design.
Intel's Pentium-class, 32-bit Quark processor, a system-on-a-chip design. Intel

"Through our ongoing efforts in education, we know that hands-on learning inspires interest in science, technology, engineering, and math," said Intel's new chief executive, Brian Krzanich, in a statement.

And Massimo Banzi, founder of the Arduino project, seemed keen on adding new processing horsepower. "We're thrilled to be working with Intel and to having the performance of Intel technology for the first time in our development boards," he said in a statement.

Arduino systems can be used for a wide variety of hardware projects -- among them a toilet paper printer, a tactile weather-forecast device, a gesture-controlled lamp, and a robotic beer-pouring system. They're a good learning tool for electronics students, which is why Google, ever eager to appeal to the tech set, has embraced Arduino, too.

Arduino boards house a microcontroller that can process electronic input signals and issue output signals. It can be hooked up to any number of sensors, motors, displays, and other widgets. People write programs on a regular computer and transfer them to the Arduino device.

Intel's Galileo boards will be compatible with the existing Arduino world so that existing programs will still run.

An electronics schematic for Galileo boards
An electronics schematic for Galileo boards Intel