MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.--A developer in Taiwan has been making internet waves with his new but unauthorized release of a Google Android Ice Cream source code for x86 devices, aimed specifically at PCs.
Chih-Wei Huang runs the Android-x86 group, which is not part of Google’s official Android Open Source Project (AOSP). Instead, Huang’s initiative is being funded and supported by Intel Corp’s chip rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD).
Neither company has made any significant inroads into the smartphone or tablet market, but Intel has been making significant efforts on the mobile front, with plans to release Atom based smartphones and more commercially appealing tablets within the first half of 2012.
Intel has also spent a year and a half working directly with Google Inc. to port the Android OS to x86. The port was first achieved on Android version 2.3.7 (Gingerbread) with Intel’s manager of the Google Program Office, Alec Gefrides, saying the firm had submitted some 120 patches to Google, which had all since been integrated into the source code, freely available on AOSP.
Intel’s code contributions have also been carried forward into the Ice Cream Sandwich build.
“We’ve been working with Google for a long time,” said Gefrides, explaining, however, that Intel’s efforts were squarely aimed at smartphones and tablets, not PCs, for which different drivers would be needed to make all the components work.
“If you pull the x86 version of Android down from the AOSP and compile it, it will run on any x86 device, but that’s not the intent, neither ours nor Google’s,” said Gefrides. “Our focus is to get phones and tablets on our Atom product line up and running on Android. That’s what we’ve been focused on, that’s what we’ve been working with Google on.”
“What’s been happening [in Huang’s case] is he bought an off-the-shelf notebook, downloaded Android off the Android open source project, and then tried to compile it. Of course it runs on x86, because it’s all the same architecture but it doesn’t have all the driver support for a PC,” Gefrides explained.
Intel typically sends out board support packages to OEMs building products on its reference design which would have all the necessary drivers included. Without these drivers, certain parts would simply not work.
“We could definitely get our drivers to go and do that, but it’s not our focus,” he said.
All parties officially using and experimenting with a variant of Android sign an agreement with Google to say they will contribute everything back to the firm’s open source project, to avoid such fragmentation. Intel is signatory, AMD on the other hand is not.
Huang’s non-authorized version has not been submitted to Google for integration into the wider Android open source effort, which has raised concern that it could cause fragmentation.
AMD has also seemingly gone out of its way to provide resources for Huang, who notes in a forum thread, “AMD provides great support to us, including device donation and engineer's support.” Huang complains that Intel, on the other hand, does not support his efforts to port Android to PCs.
“Intel still refuses to provide any help to this project. They closed all contact windows I've ever tried,” said Huang, going on to recommend to his followers that should they want his code to work, he recommends using it on an AMD platform.
An Intel spokeswoman told EE Times there was no way the company could support the fragmentation of the Android platform, nor would Intel want to go against Google’s intent for how its Android platform best be used. Intel has also been very clear that its focus for Android is on Atom, as opposed to its Core products.