Intel, Google updating Android 4.1 for Atom tablets, smartphones

Intel is working with Google to complete a port of Android Jelly Bean to x86 smartphones and tablets.

Intel is porting the Android 4.1 operating system, also called Jelly Bean, to work on smartphones and tablets using low-power Atom processors, the company said this week.

The company did not provide a time frame for when the Android 4.1 port would be complete, or when the OS would be deployed in products.

"Intel continues to work closely with Google to enable future versions of Android, including Jelly Bean, on our family of low power Atom processors," said Suzy Greenberg, a company spokeswoman, in an e-mail.

Smartphones running on Intel chips are currently being rolled out with Android 2.3, code-named Gingerbread, and are due to get Android 4.0, code-named Ice Cream Sandwich, as an update, though a time-frame has not been provided.

Lava International and Orange are among companies that launched Intel Inside smartphones with Gingerbread. Lenovo released an Intel Inside smartphone in China with a customized version of Android, and Motorola is due to release smartphones and tablets Intel chips with the Android OS later this year.

Intel has a minimal presence in the smartphone and tablet markets, which are dominated by ARM. The first tablet to get Android 4.1 was Google's Nexus 7, which was based on an ARM processor. Device makers that license ARM processors such as Asus and HTC are due to deliver over-the-air updates to Android 4.1 for devices in the near future.

ARM's rival MIPS, whose processor designs go into low-cost tablets, is also racing to complete a port of Jelly Bean to work on its processors.

Intel is a big backer of Android, and is mainly putting the OS on smartphones and tablets with its Atom chips code-named Medfield. Intel Inside smartphones carry Medfield chips, and a few tablets have been announced with Medfield. Vizio has announced it would use a Medfield chip in an upcoming 10-inch tablet.

Intel's next-generation Atom chip for tablets, code-named Clover Trail, is being targeted for use only in devices with Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 OS. Intel is not porting Android for Clover Trail tablets, and hopes to expand its presence in the tablet market primarily around Windows 8 and Clover Trail. Microsoft has also announced Windows RT for ARM processors.

ARM is a step ahead of its rival with devices already carrying Android 4.1. But Intel is trying to attract developers to write applications for Android on Atom processors. It is sponsoring a contest where the company will award $29,000 in cash prizes to attract Android developers to write games for Intel-based tablets and smartphones. As part of the contest, users can test the code in an Android 4.0 emulator.

Google has also said it would release an Android Platform Development Kit (PDK) to hardware companies to customize the OS for a chipset or device ahead of release.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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