Dual-OS. It’s a possible solution that could bridge the differences between Windows and leading mobile operating systems if it’s done right. ASUS already teased us with us the dual-OS ATIV-Q but it looks like there’s a smaller tablet offering coming. The M80T has been spotted going through testing at the FCC.
The dual-OS variants are labelled M82T, L82T and R82T ‘Dual-OS’ and that, my friends, is really all there is to know right now.
If Intel and friends can pull-off the dual-OS trick in a slick way they’ll have a valuable selling point and a ‘bridge’ between the app-gap in Windows and the consumer richness of Android. Ramos already have a set of Intel-powered Android tablets in China but the Ramos i10 pro is said to be coming with a dual-OS option on a Baytrail core.
Back at IDF September, Intel and Google finally announced that they’d be working together to get Android up and running on x86 devices. While there were a number of Android-running x86 tablets and a smartphone prototype or two floating around IDF, it wasn’t immediately apparent what the major advantage of Android 0n x86 devices would be for your everyday consumer. In fact, it wasn’t even apparent exactly why any of the existing AndroidÂ manufacturesÂ would want to create x86 Android devices, given that up until now, pretty much all of their R&D has been focused on ARM devices. However, Intel may actually be perfectly positioned to be able to stimulate the growth of an upcoming segment of Android device — one which truly converges mobile and desktop functionality into one device. Chippy has coined such hybrid functionality: ‘High Dynamic Range Computing’ (HDRC), and the time might just be right for Intel to ignite this segment and find their own place in the Android market.
Any consumer-available Android device that you can get your hands on today uses ARM architecture which is fundamentallyÂ incompatibleÂ with the x86 architecture that Intel products are based on. Android was originally built to run exclusively on ARM (though being open-source, some community projects were able to do some porting to x86). It wasn’t until several years after Android was on the scene that Intel and Google finally got together to work on full hardware-level Android on x86 support. That work is still ongoing. We’ve had our hands on Android devices running with Intel’s x86 architecture, but it is clear that there is still much optimization to be done. Once everything is complete though, won’t a device running Android on ARM be, for the user,Â indistinguishableÂ from a device running Android on Intel’s x86?
If ARM has battery life, Intel has power. It’s an interestingÂ dichotomy — we’ve watched as ARM-based devices have continuously scaled up to meet performance demands as the Android device market has grown. Intel has the opposite problem; they’ve got power, but have been constantly trying to scale it down to work with mobile at the tablet/smartphone level. Intel’s Atom series is a notable effort in the last several years to scale things back far enough that users could get reasonable performance and reasonable battery life out of a netbook. Once Intel can achieve the same thing at the smartphone and tablet level (and they’ve been working on this for years), they’ve got the expertise to push the processing end of things far beyond what we currently see from ARM — not to mention that the same x86 architecture that will be found in Intel-based phones and tablets is capable of booting full-fledged desktop operating systems.
If Intel plays their cards right, they could do very well in the Android market by stimulating the HDRC segment. HDRC isn’t really a mainstream thing at this point — most people have their desktop computer and they’ve got a smartphone and maybe a tablet. They view these two devices as fundamentally different. The promise of HDRC is creating a device that scales so well that it can converge these two categories of devices, which are viewed as different, into a single unit. This is a serious challenge because essentially it asks for a single device that is instant-on and has phone-like (all day) battery life, but, when plugged in, can be as powerful as one would expect from a laptop or desktop. Intel has the expertise for the high-end of the HDRC spectrum, we see this daily from the desktop computers that we work on. If they can combine this with phone/tablet-like low-power functionality, they could blow ARM out of the water and define the HDRC space that mobile technology has been steadily moving toward for the last 5 years.
As I tool a look at the MSI booth at CeBIT yesterday I couldn’t stop myself from getting a little hands-on with the Windpad 110W. AMD Fusion-based and equiped with a nice optical mouse pointer and full SD card slot it’s a tablet design that could rally benefit from the next-gen OS and platforms.
The MSI rep nods and smiles and I talk about 1366×768 and Windows 8, as we discuss the reason for having a mouse pointer in a 1KG tablet and how Windows 8 + Clover Trail W with a fast SSD could really bring usable low-cost productive tablets to end-users.
MSI won’t say anything about new products but they’re clearly thinking about this. In tact, I got the impression that they’re more interested in Windows tablets than in Ultrabooks which they tell me are not going to be broguth to the market until they have taken a longer term look at the Ultrabook market.
It’s a blast from 2011 to play with the Windpad again but I think that we’re going to see more of this later this year. Tablets, convertibles and, my favorite, the detachable Atom-powered Win8/Android screen and Intel Core-driven keyboard base station, all in under 1.5KG!
We had time to get some more hands-on with the Intel Smartphone reference design here at MWC this morning. It feels powerful! Apart from an Intel-optimised build of Opera, Gameloft have also been porting over to the Intel platform. It’s worth noting that applications that don’t use any NDK, will run on the Intel Android platform without any modification. There’s an ARM-NDK emulation layer in there too so even some apps that do use ARM NDKs will work but for the best experience, ISVs are going to have to recompile their apps to use the Intel NDK where needed.
Don’t forget that the platform includes Wi-Di support and has some image processing hardware inside. Apart from that though, it’s difficult to see a clear advantage for Intel right now, especially if ISV can’t be bothered to port their NDK-reliant apps over.
I’m heading to Barcelona today to attend Mobile World Congress where I expect to be bombarded with phone, smartphone, tablet, app, operating systems and telecom news but this year I’m going with a specific focus. I’ll be looking for more evidence of crossover from the traditional mobile world – platforms, operating systems and software – into the world of general computing.
Intel have kindly invited me along to take a look at their Android smartphone ecosystem (along with Appup and Ultrabook information) and I should be seeing devices close-up on Monday but that doesn’t mean I won’t be taking a look at the competition. I’ll be looking for next-generation platforms from the ARM ecosystem too. With ARM Cortex A15 designs and Qualcomm’s ARM V7-based Krait core we’ve reached a point where processing power per Mhz moves beyond what Intel Atom is currently offering. I’ll also be on the lookout for designs that take the mobile platform into the desktop space, modular designs too.Â It will be interesting to see software that also does the job of bridging mobile and desktop usage. The Google Chrome Beta for Android ICS is one such example of software crossing over.
I’ll be looking closely at the Android OS too. It’s no longer exclusive to the ARM architecture so it will be interesting to get a feel for whether Intel’s work on optimizing the OS for their mobile platform has given it an advantage. I wonder if there’s an X86 optimised version of the app yet.
Finally ill be on the lookout for news from the Microsoft camp.
I’ll also be getting as much hands-on with tablets as I can during the show and as usual, bringing you news, video, images and information as it happens. Ben and the rest of the team are also tracking the news and will he bringing you information and round-ups on Carrypad.
Stay tuned to Carrypad and the Carrypad twitter channel and for some behind-the-scenes info you cam follow me, Chippy, on my twitter channel. Keep an eye on the database to because we’ll be updating it with new products during the show.
April feels like a long way away but could be as little as 6 weeks. With Chrome for Android highlighting how important it is to get updated now though, I know how frustrating any wait can be.
I’ve been testing ICS on the A500 for the last week via a Thor ROM. It’s given me the chance to see how Chrome for Android is performing and I have to say, it’s very good. The sync features are worth having and the quality of rendering and input handling means I was able to edit a post on the WordPress web-based tools, work with Google Plus and generally get productive with web-based applications.
Unfortunately the ROM isn’t that stable for me so I can’t really say I’m running with ICS. Stumbling more like!
Many of you know I run three sites. Carrypad, the tablet-focused site. Ultrabooknews, the thin-and-light laptop site and this one, UMPCPortal. Â At UMPCPortal we’ve been focused on productive mobility since 2006 (almost exactly) and as you will probably know, the last few years have been hard on us. Trying to get productivity into a two-handed mobile experience has been completely ignored by mainstream manufacturers. We’ve all tried tablets of course and all been disappointed at the lack or processing power, lightweight apps and of course, the full web experience which requires a full web browser. Mozilla tried with Firefox for Android but didn’t really get there yet. Most people settled on Dolphin HD as the best of the bunch but it wasn’t anywhere near the experience needed for web-based productivity and creation.
Intel offered us some hope with Meego, an optimised Linux-based OS that included a Chromium browser…
MeeGo offers me some hope. A full internet experience and an app store but it’s something needs to mature until at least late 2011 and in fact for it to function fast enough to be productive it will need a high-end dual-core ARM or Intel Moorestown platform that will not be able to provide all-day battery life in a smartphone form-factor. [ref June 2010]
…Â but we all know what happened there.
And then along came the best smartbook yet. The Asus Transformer Prime has fantastic looking hardware, 18hr battery life (with leyboard dock) and some great sensor, touch and app experiences. The problem was that it also had issues when addressing productive and creative work. The apps are still thin and the browser still terrible.
But there was nothing else to choose from.Â Until today that is.
Chrome for Android has been launched. It’s in the Android Market for anyone with an Android Ice Cream Sandwich device and it’s fully functional. Well, it seems to be. This Beta software may have a few bugs but it represents the best step yet towards a productive handheld ‘UMPC’ solution. There will still be problems with low-quality, unstable and badly supportedÂ native apps, Â but Chrome on Android is going to develop fast, encourage a new market for Android tablets and Â enable a whole new world of desktop-quality browsing.
There are early issues. Mouseover doesn’t seem to be working well and there could be performance issues related to the (relative to laptops) lack of CPU, memory and general platform speed but these are likely to be fixed very quickly given the effort Google is putting into its browser.
Unfortunately for me, I don’t have an ICS tablet right now. I will be looking for ‘ROM’ upgrade for the Acer A500 I have here as it supports USB host (for keyboards/mice etc) and would work well as a smart, Chrome-based desktop device but that could take a few days before I get round to it. MaybeÂ I’llÂ be looking for an ASUS Transformer Prime though. Given its smartbook credentials and Chrome for Android it now has the potential to span Carrypad, UMPCPortal and Ultrabooknews!
A quick note on the Android 4.0 requirement. I think it’s a brave bu neccesary move. It means that only ‘Google Android’ gets the best browser and encoruages a big shift to ICS over 2012. it might be annoying for some now but it makes absolute sense to encourage a move away from 2.x and 3.x variants and get everyone moving with ICS. When that happens, ISVs will be far more likely to invest in high-quality tablet application development and that’s where the turning point comes.Â FollowingÂ the turning point, the nicheÂ designsÂ will jump in too. There’s every chance that we’ll start to see UMPCs again…running Android. I know you’ll be concerned with security, apps, interfaces and such but I feel sure we’ll see those issues solved. The market for alternativeÂ designsÂ is going to grow quickly so watch out for a fresh batch of ultra mobile PC news! Â It also makes Apple think hard again about a smartbook although my guess is that they have been working on one for a long time already.
Don’t forget that this app is very likely to be in development for X86 devices too. Intel will be putting massive effort into getting this optimised for Medfield-based devices. Comparing Sunspider tests, hopefuly at MWC later this month, will be fun!
I’m interested to hear your thoughts below. I’m sure we’ll have a good discussion.
Noted – There’s no Flash support. I’m not sure too many are going to have a problem with this and it sends an important message out to web developers – Stay clear of Flash!
There seems to be a problem with agent-id. I’m reading that Chrome for Android is identifying itself as a mobile browser.
The Humble Bundle Inc. puts together gaming bundles which feature notorious indie games which are “donated” by their respective developers. The bundle is then sold with a name-your-own-price model and youÂ get to decide where the money goes — to the developers, to Humble Bundle Inc. (so they can continue doing what they do), or to charity (or to all three).Â So not only is it a good cause (if you direct your money towardÂ charity), but it’s also a great way to get some excellent games on the cheap! What’s more, the games are cross-platform, DRM-free, andÂ redeemableÂ on Steam if you’re that sort of gamer.
All Humble Bundle games have been cross-platform for PC/Mac/Linux, but this is the first time where Android versions of all the games are included as well.
The list of games for this bundle includes nothing but award-winning heavy-hitters:
Anomaly Warzone Earth HD by 11 Bit Studios (rated 4.5 stars on the Android Market)
Edge by Mobigame (rated 4.5 stars)
Osmos by Hemisphere Games (rated 4.5 stars)
World of Goo* by 2D Boy (rated 5 stars)
*World of Goo is only unlocked if you pay more than the average price paid for the bundle, which currently sits at $5.47
I’ve played all of these except Anomaly, and can confirm that they are great games. Did I mention that the soundtracks come along with the purchase as well? Really, you can’t go wrong here. Of course you should try these demos first to ensure the full games will run acceptably on your Android device. This is a limited offer which will only run for another 14 days. What are you waiting fo? Get ’em while they’re hot!
At last year’s Google I/O, a great new program was announced — Google was working with a group of equipment manufacturers to create a sort of ‘update guarentee’ which would explicitly inform customers how long they could expect their shiny new Android device toÂ receiveÂ updates, and how quickly they could expect those updates from carriers or manufacturers. Google never named the program as far as I can tell, so I gave it one (after all, it needs a name if we’re to talk about it); the Android Update Alliance.
I was very excited to hear this news initially out of Google I/O. We’ve all heard the horror stories of companies quickly dropping software support for nearly-new devices, or leaving customers waiting months with no news about when (or if) they wouldÂ receiveÂ the latest vital updates — updates which could improve both the performance of their device and the security. I thought we’d finally see companies and carriers taking responsibility and offeringÂ guaranteedÂ and reasonably long-term support for the latest Android gadgets. After all, no one wants their brand new phone or tablet to be completely unsupported 6 months after launch.
The Android Update Alliance announcement was made 9 months ago, and contained many of theÂ majorÂ industry players, including Verizon, AT&T, Samsung, HTC, Spring, LG, Motorola, and others. How much progress has been made in implementing the program? Well, just about none at all as far as I can tell. I haven’t heard a single bit of news about the program since Google I/O 2011 in May, and I’ve reached out to Google for comment on several occasions and heard nothing back, except to say that there is no official webpage for information about the program and that Google has nothing further to share about it at this time.
What’s the deal Google? You didn’t even manage to name the program! The original announcement said that the initial partners agreed to support devices with updates for 18 months, but the group was apparently still deciding how quickly they couldÂ guaranteeÂ that usersÂ receive those updates. Google asked us to “stayed tuned” for more on the program, but there’s been no information at all from the company. None of the companies announced in the partnership have yet implemented any of the suggested supportÂ guarantees. It seems that the Android Update Alliance was just conceptual in nature.
Sadly, in terms of devices running the latest software, things might have gotten even worse then before the Android Update Alliance announcement. To date, less than 1% of Android devices are running the latest version of Android — and that’s being generous and grouping everything above Android 4.0 together. If you want to talk about devices running the honest to goodness “latest” version of Android (4.0.3), then we’re talking just 0.3%. Android 2.3 is currently the most widely installed version of Google’s mobile operating system, by a wide margin, being found on 54% of all Android devices to have accessed the Android Marketplace over a 14 day period. The next largest install-base is not the next version after Android 2.3, but actually the one below it; Android 2.2 with 30.4%. This means that many devices are still transitioning fromÂ Android 2.2 toÂ Android 2.3 the exodus from Android 2.3 to the next version up has scarcely begun.
Official Data From Google
It amazes me that Google makes a big deal about Ice Cream Sandwich when such a tiny, minute, fraction of Android users even have access to it.
So, Google, my question stands: what the heck happened to the Android Update Alliance?
Update: I wanted to point out this excellent piece from Michael DeGustaÂ which paints a stark picture of how Android and Apple after-sale software support compares. Of all 18 Android smartphones released since the beginning of Android through Q2 2010, Michael found the following (note that this was written before the release of Ice Cream Sandwich, which means most phones on the list are one more major version behind):
7 of the 18 Android phones never ran a current version of the OS.
12 of 18 only ran a current version of the OS for a matter of weeks or less.
10 of 18 were at least two major versions behind well within their two year contract period.
11 of 18 stopped getting any support updates less than a year after release.
13 of 18 stopped getting any support updates before they even stopped selling the device or very shortly thereafter.
15 of 18 don’t run Gingerbread, which shipped in December 2010.
At least 16 of 18 will almost certainly never get Ice Cream Sandwich.
When I tested an Intel Menlow-based MID in July 2008 and saw the PC architecture streaming music into a browser-player running at 2.8W I knew Intel were on the right track. Two years later with their next-gen architecture, Moorestown, they tackled the standby power drain and managed to get it into a phone. I had exclusive hands-on and although the device was hot and eventually deemed uncompetitive, it was clear to see where this was heading. This week at CES I put my hand on the back of an Intel Medfield-based smartphone and felt nothing. No heat! On the front, I saw a quick user experience and when I tested Sunspider I saw an impressive result of 1290ms, with Android 2.x.
Over at AnandTech, meanwhile, Anand has been discussing more details about the performance and energy consumption figures.Â Not only are we seeing good performance but Intel are telling us that the efficiency is in the leading class too.Â The most impressive figure on the article? 1W browsing. That’s with screen-on and 3G-on. 1 WATT! Intel are now able to control a ‘PC’ to the point where everything turns off except the parts required. That doesn’t mean that Intel will be competitive in all areas though. Like Ultrabooks, the platform is likely to have a high ‘dynamic range’ and probably a higher system thermal design characteristic but if the work that Intel have done on Android is solid, that may not be a problem.
What a shame though that Meego wasn’t around to benefit from Medfield. I’m sure there are Meego devices in the Intel labs working just fine and I’m sure that Tizen is likely to re-surface too (My bet â€“ Samsung + Intel + Tizen make an announcement at MWC) but it would have been nice to see Intel’s Meego work result in a product. I wonder how Nokia are feeling at this point? With the N9 having been a success and the figures on Medfield/Android looking good, Intel may get sweet revenge!
What Intel need now are product partners and platform advantages. Being competitive isn’t going to be enough to make the best product in the market so this is where 1080p hardware encoding, hardware-based image processing, Wireless-Display, McAfee and other technologies come into play. Intel Insider (for securely streaming first-run movies) and integrated radios, hardware encryption and of course, Intel’s silicon process advantage. if you consider how far Intel have come in the last 4 years, look at their technology portfolio and think about what’s going to happen in the next two years there should be no doubt that Intel will be playing, and possibly leading in the years to come.
I won’t discount Cortex A15 and similar ARM architectures and we must not forget that ARMv8 is going to be feeding in after a few years but Intel’s position with Medfield now enables it to go and court some of its biggest customers for phones, tablets, set-top boxes and more and that partner ecosystem could be the real advantage for Intel.