Intel Confirms It's Working With Android Honeycomb for Tablets

by Ostatic Staff - Apr. 20, 2011

On Tuesday of this week, Intel announced record financial results--a good sign that fortunes are improving in the technology industry, and possibly in Silicon Valley. Historically, when Intel has done very well, given the fact that its chips and technologies are central to many other technologies, the tech industry has also done well. On its earnings call, though, another interesting bit of news came out: Intel President and Chief Executive Paul Otellini confirmed that Intel is working with Google's Honeycomb 3.0 version of the Android mobile OS, with an eye toward enabling tablet devices that run it. As we've reported, Honeycomb is in development with only select partners of Google at this point, but the fact that Intel is on top of it bodes well for Honeycomb and tablets.

 "We've received the Android code – the Honeycomb version of Android source code – from Google, and we're actively doing the port on that," said Otellini. The company intends to “ramp those machines over the course of this year for a number of customers,” he added.

When it comes to ramping machines, few companies swing as big a stick as Intel does, so expect to see a number of new Android-based tablet devices arriving in the coming year. Interestingly, Otellini also said that Intel will start to play a much bigger role in the smartphone market, and that means that Intel chips will also be powering new Android phones.

"I would be very disappointed if we didn't see Intel-based phones for sale 12 months from now," said Otellini.

Debate has raged about Google's stance with Honeycomb, since it hasn't followed the same open source playbook with this version--customized for tablets--that it has with other versions of Android. However, Google's move on this front may pay off, because by working with select hardware partners on unified designs for tablets, Android tablets may have a better chance of competing effectively with Apple's uber-successful iPad. 

We've noted that Google's Honeycomb strategy is an anti-fragmentation strategy, and it may disappoint many open source purists, but as PCMag's Sascha Segan notes in an excellent piece of analysis, a more unified hardware community surrounding Honeycomb may hold promise for it:

 "Going up against Apple, the tablet leader, Google realized it needs an industry-leading UI and a consistent brand experience for Android on tablets. And open-source projects, as is well known, have serious problems creating industry leading UIs. For one thing, open-source projects tend to attract hard-core programmers who love adding features, not visual visionaries. But possibly more importantly, a great end-user experience is often about editing - about making things fit to a consistent vision, which is much easier when there's one consistent vision driving the project."

Intel is a key quarterback to have in driving a unified hardware strategy. The company has vast experience working with hardware partners in the Windows arena to keep interface standards cohesive, and it can apply its experience to tablets based on Android. Intel's Honeycomb buy-in is the best sign yet that Google's unusual approach with its tablet-customized version of Android may pay long-term dividends.