Building hardware for a living isn’t an easy job, especially in a fast-moving market like Android. To win, you must move quickly to realize market opportunities. This need for speed means you have to drive the engineering process for everyone in the ecosystem -ODMs have to build specific OS images for each BOM configuration, software developers have to tweak their codebase depending upon the silicon/BOM and OEMs have to submit every single SKU through an approval process to ship with Google Mobile Services. It’s not a simple process. Until someone makes it easier. What if Intel provided a solution that eased the process?
At IDF today, we announced the Intel Reference Design Program for Android. This program is our commitment to the industry to make it easier to bring Android devices based on Intel Architecture to market. We will provide a single binary image for Android. Within this single binary, the ODMs/OEMs can choose from a pre-qualified set of components or a complete BOM specification, and build a system. This increases the speed with which ODMs/OEMs are able to create and ship new products while reducing their engineering costs.
And that’s not all. Intel is also committed to streamlining access to GMS for our customers. Intel will manage the full certification process so that the ODMs/OEMs can focus their efforts elsewhere. The OS image we provide will be pre-certified for compliance with CTS. A single binary image and pre-certification are great steps forward, but we intend to do more.
As of September 4, just over 20% of the devices accessing Google Play operated on Android KitKat – an OS that has been available for nearly a year. Intel’s program increases the speed with which users have access to the latest Android release, helping ensure the user has the latest image as well as patches within 2 weeks of release from Google.
This program will help. Any device shipped via the Intel Reference Design for Android program will get guaranteed updates within 2 weeks of an AOSP update. We are committed to providing that for 2 years post-device launch. This allows end-users to experience the latest version of Android and remain current with important OS updates. To be sure, it’s a big investment, but big investments in software aren’t new to Intel.
Our friends at Google appreciate it too. “It’s exciting to see Intel bring their years of expertise in reference designs to Android in order provide high-quality Android tablets and speed up time-to-market for manufacturers,” said Hiroshi Lockheimer, VP of Engineering for Android, Google. “The result of this program will be devices powered by Intel’s technologies, together with an operating system that is up-to-date and includes popular apps from Google such as Chrome, Maps and YouTube, offering a great overall user experience.”
Intel has a long open source history. For over 15 years, Intel has led the industry in many technology advancements within the open source community. We are a leading contributor to the Linux kernel, the kernel used for Android, as well as a leading external contributor to AOSP. Sometimes it feels like we’re that ‘over-night success’ band that’s toured for 10 years. Our commitment to supporting Android is an extension of our open source legacy. And our work on the Linux kernel has given Intel a solid bench of experienced software engineers.
2014 is a big year for Intel with Android. We expect over 100 different designs of Android tablets shipping this year with Intel Inside! And now this! I know we can’t make our partners’ jobs easy, but our Intel Reference Design for Android Program can certainly help make it easier.