Intel, AMD Bringing Android to Window Devices

By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2014-01-08

Intel, AMD Bringing Android to Window Devices

Intel and Advanced Micro Devices are both pushing initiatives that officials say meets a growing demand from business users and consumers alike: being able to run both Microsoft's Windows and Google's Android operating systems on the same devices without having to reboot.

Systems already can run multiple OSes, but switching means having to shut one down and booting up the other, which can be time-consuming and place significant demands on processor power and storage capacity. At the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, the chip makers unveiled efforts that will enable users to avoid those issues when moving from one operating system to another.

During his keynote address at the show Jan. 6, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich introduced the company's dual-OS strategy based its system-on-a-chip (SoC) products that will let users move from one OS to another simply by tapping on a button. For its part, AMD is partnering with BlueStacks, a software company backed by AMD that has been making technology that enables users to run Android in a Windows environment.

Officials with both companies said their initiatives are aimed at addressing demands coming from OEMs and end users.

"There are times you want Windows, there are times you want Android," Krzanich said, demonstrating the technology on a new dual-OS Asus system, the Transformer Book Duet. "[Users] wanted more choice—Windows for some usage, Android for others. … Intel SoCs are the only ones that can offer that capability to seamlessly switch between OSes. You don't have to make a choice moving forward."

Intel officials have been enhancing the support in its processors—particularly the low-power Atom chips—of the Android operating system, which is the most popular OS on such mobile devices as tablets and smartphones. That support has been a key part of Intel's larger strategy to gain traction in the highly competitive mobile market, where most devices now are powered by chips designed by ARM and built by the likes of Qualcomm, Samsung and Texas Instruments.

Krzanich noted that these Android devices, which started off as primarily consumer offerings, increasingly are finding their way into the enterprise, thanks to such trends as bring-your-own-device (BYOD). The increasing numbers of employees using their Android devices at work have raised concerns in IT departments about security and compliance with enterprise policies, the CEO said.

To address those issues, Intel's security unit this year will roll out Intel Device Protection technology, which will enable Android devices powered by Intel chips to meet most security standards both in the home and at work. With the technology, employees will be able to "use Android in detachables and tablets anywhere you are, and it will be available this year," Krzanich said. "It's full 64-bit and allows you to move seamlessly in and out of the office."

AMD will leverage its partnership with BlueStacks to bring the Android operating environment to Windows-based tablets, two-in-one devices, notebooks and desktops. The technology will leverage optimizations in AMD's fourth-generation accelerated processing units (APUs), including the upcoming "Kaveri" chip, which officials said will launch Jan. 14.


Intel, AMD Bringing Android to Window Devices

Users with AMD-powered devices running Windows 7 or 8 will be able to run an Android interface whether in a window on the device's desktop or in a full-screen mode. Users will be able to employ the settings, configurations and customizations they have on their Android-based smartphones and tablets, have access to apps in the Google Play store and be able to access files stored within the Windows file system while working in the Android environment.

AMD is simply giving users want they want, according to Clarice Simmons, senior marketing manager at AMD. Currently, Android is found on 52.2 percent of mobile devices in the U.S. market, and more than 80 percent of mobile phones worldwide. Meanwhile, Windows is run in more than 80 percent of desktop PCs.

"So what to do in a world where more everyday consumers rely on multiple platforms: a Windows PC at home, a second on their desk in the office or one in the laptop bag on their shoulder as they board a plane; an Android phone on the go and maybe a similar Android-based tablet as they sit on the couch," Simmons wrote in a post on the AMD blog site. "One obvious solution is to eliminate the gap between Windows and Android—give the people their favorite game app on their desktop right next to Microsoft Office!"

Roger Kay, principal analyst with Endpoint Technologies Associates, said he's reserving judgment on the initiatives from Intel and AMD until the messaging and the demand for such capabilities become clearer and systems begin rolling out. Kay told eWEEK he generally understands what the chip makers are trying to do, but that he doesn't generally support the idea of multi-OS systems. There are always concerns, such as what happens when one OS is upgraded? Would that negatively affect how it works with the other OS?

In addition, the chip makers, OS vendors and OEMs need to make sure that everything in the systems and between the operating systems works well, from the messaging to the operation.

"It sounds a little like a kludge, and it would be experienced as a kludge if any of it doesn't work right," he said.


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