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Intel Releases x86 Android Emulator

Android for Intel

In a move that is sure to make Android developers happy, and made me personally dance joyfully, Intel has released their x86 emulator for Android. For years, Intel has been trying to break into the mobile market, and after getting left at the alter by Nokia, abandoning their child Meego, Intel has pinned its last hopes on Google’s Android. At present, Intel has only one phone on the market using its atom based x86 processor, the relatively unknown Lava Xolo X900, which prior to today I hadn’t even known existed.

As expected, the speed for the x86 emulator is much improved compared to its ARM cousin. While I couldn’t even dream of loading and Android tablet sized device in the past with the ARM Emulator, this new x86 one loads with moderate speed and rather decent stability. It still has miles to go to catch up with Apple’s iOS simulator, which unlike Google/Intel’s solution, doesn’t load up the operating system or emulate the hardware limits. Although the simulator cannot therefore be truly be considered an accurate measure of an app’s performance on an iPhone, it is an easier system to grab screenshots and test user interface, and things like that. It should also be noted that iOS and OSX have a similar enough architecture that iOS Simulator’s operations likely aren’t too far off from the actual device.

For what it’s worth, my android app, Flood Zone NYC apparently requires no additional configuration to operate on x86 devices, a benefit of Google’s decision to begin supporting x86 chips officially as of Ice Cream Sandwich. Prior to Ice Cream Sandwich’s release, intel had been creating their own ports of Android versions, which were always a version behind the current Android release, and were entirely unsupported by Google, meaning that they had no access to the Android Market, making them DOA as far as consumers and manufacturers were concerned. With desktop and laptop sales dwindling, and Microsoft hedging on tablets for Windows 8, Intel desperately needs to make headway into the mobile markets. Now that Windows 8 supports ARM chips, not even their home turf is safe, and I’d argue that the atom line is fundamentally threatened by ARM beyond tablets, ARM likely to expand into netbook type devices due to their low cost.

A developing market seems to be growing around stick PCs, small, pocket sized computers which can be plugged into the back of a television or monitor and function. One which has been making the rounds on blogs recently is this $74 dollar chinese android PC. Although this model in particular happens to be a no-name chinese build, it does illustrate the cost issues that Intel is going to run head on into within the coming years. Intel Atom, as priced now, couldn’t even hope to get into this market. Current smart TV systems, such as Roku, seem rather quaint in comparison to the opportunities that plug in computers provide.