Intel and Google augmented an existing relationship by agreeing to work together on tailoring Intel mobile processors on the Android platform for smartphones and tablets. Who needs whom more here?
Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) forged a deal to tune Google's Android
operating system to run well on Intel's processors Sept 13.
Intel CEO Paul Otellini and Google's lead Android creator Andy Rubin stood
at the Intel Developer Forum to unveil the pact. The two
showed off a prototype smartphone using Intel's "Medfield" Atom mobile
processor to power Google's Android "Honeycomb"
operating system, originally tailored for tablets.
Both companies positioned the deal as mutually beneficial;
Google gets another major processor OEM building chips for its platform, while
Intel has a nice on-ramp to providing chips for the broadest smartphone
platform in the world.
Otellini said Intel's Medfield chips will appear first
in Android phones in the first half of 2012 to challenge the popular mobile
processors made by ARM Holdings.
Yet most analysts agree Intel
, which was late to the mobile processor market after
pumping out countless chips for power-chomping PCs and servers, has the most to
gain from the relationship.
After all, Intel is now positioned to get its chips into
the lush, verdant markets for Android smartphones and tablet computers, which rely
on low power chips that don't burn out as fast.
IDC recently predicted smartphones and tablets
will grow to eclipse wireline
machines such as desktop PCs by 2015.
"Intel needs Google more than the other way around,
but Google certainly wants the broadest distribution possible, which is why the
company is investing - and has invested in the past - to ensure that Android
runs on both ARM and Intel," Current Analysis analyst Avi Greengart told
Industry analyst Roger Kay added that Intel needs Google
as much as Microsoft needs ARM.
"Google has lots of distribution without Intel,"
Kay told eWEEK. "But Google gets silicon optimization for its OS. Eventually, Atom may be a better platform
than ARM. Google has to hedge its bets."
Industry analyst Jack Gold sees the situation a bit
differently. Despite Android's momentum, the relationship is crucial to both
"Android itself has not always been that good a
performer, and some of the software choices Google has made are troublesome,"
Gold explained. For example, the Honeycomb OS has been labeled buggy and blamed for lackluster Android tablet sales.
Meanwhile, Gold noted that for all of its prowess of a chipmaker, Intel has a unique ability to make software
and particularly OSes that run extremely well.
"While they won't necessarily
help Android on ARM, they can certainly make Android run great on the Intel
architecture, and it's clear Google wants to be a leading OS provider,
including on the x86 platforms (PCs)," Gold told eWEEK. "Any help Intel provides Google for use on
x86 will also help Android running on ARM since the technology will be
repurposed. So, my bottom line is both companies actually have a great deal of
benefit from a tight relationship."
Regardless, Google is doing a lot of hedging around
Android it probably never expected to have to do. The company ponied up $12.5
billion to buy Motorola Mobility (NYSE:MMI), a move the search engine provider
positioned as a play to grab massive patent portfolio totaling 17,000-plus
patents and counting (7,500 pending.)
However, some industry watchers believe, based on
Motorola's proxy filing with the SEC
, that the phone maker forced Google to
purchase it to protect it from gross litigation in the Android ecosystem, where
Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) have sued Motorola for patent infringement over its Android