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.
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. Not only are we seeing good performance but Intel are telling us that the efficiency is in the leading class too. 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.
Following up the last post, our hands-on with the Intel Android Smartphone here at CES, here’s a demo showing hardware accelerated playback and control of a 360 degree 1080p video. It’s impressive. You’ll also see 1080p video playback and some gaming which again were super smooth.
We’re likely to hear more about this 1.6Ghz Medfield-based smartphone at the Intel Keynote later today so stay tuned as we’ll be there.