Sep 20th, 2013

Intel's Enhancements to Android

At last week’s Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, Intel a showed their love for Google in a big way. Google’s Sundar Pichai, Senior Vice President of Android, Chrome, and Apps, even made a guest appearance on stage to give Intel’s Doug Fisher a ‘Noogler hat’ to commemorate their new found partnership. At IDF 2013, Intel announced various enhancements for Android and how they are “going to be adding things like 64-bit capabilities to the platform”.

Wait, you mean 64-bit capabilities like the newly announced iPhone 5S? Kind of, but the reality is a bit more complicated.

Intel announced their Bay Trail platform. Of the processors announced, the Z3000 series will be Intel’s Atom brand processor which competes against other ARM based mobile processors. Depending on the model, they sport either dual or quad cores SoCs. The most powerful SoC announced, the quad core Z3770, will put out clock speeds up to 2.4GHz and support higher screen resolutions of 2,560 x 1,600. Sometime in the first quarter of 2014, Intel plans to release a 64-bit version of Bay Trail SoC.

What’s this mean for Android?

The Bay Trail Z3000 series, is specifically designed for tablets running Android and Windows 8.1. Intel wants their new platform to succeed and is doing everything in their power to make this success a reality on Android.

Intel started off by bragging that they have “been one of the leading contributors to Linux in the market place”. That’s definitely true for Android. They’ve been adding key AOSP commits, Android kernel code, optimizing Android’s Dalvik VM, and tweaking drivers where needed to make sure Android runs the best it can on their new chips. Additionally, Intel’s new NDK will allow Android developers to write C or C++ code for Android apps, which will help boost performance.

Intel AOSP

Next up, Intel announced that they were “going to be adding things like 64-bit capabilities to the platform”. As previously mentioned, coming in early 2014, Bay Trail will come in the 64-bit flavor. As shown above in multiple locations, Intel has been adding code to the Android Open Source Project in preparation for their upcoming 64-bit chip. In fact, they’ve been doing it for months.

If you’re feelin’ adventurous, you can hit up the source links below to see exactly what changes Intel is making. Just a warning: if you’re not a developer, a lot of it won’t make a whole lot of sense.

Does this mean the Android OS will be 64-bit capable?

Most likely no. Not yet. Intel is just adding support for their upcoming Bay Trail 64-bit SoC. Android can run as a 32-bit operating system on top of a 64-bit capable processor. This has been done for years in the desktop world. When the day comes that Android is in fact 64-bit capable, Intel will most certain be ready.

Assuming Android eventually does become a 64-bit solution, the next hurdle matches the iPhone 5S’ current 64-bit limitations: apps and games need to leverage these capabilities or it’s all for naught.

Additionally, Intel isn’t the only Android OEM looking towards the future, Samsung recently announced that they too would be adding 64-bit capabilities in upcoming phones.

Source: [IDF 2013] [Android Code Review 1, 2]


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