Intel Reverses Course, Bringing Android to Clover Trail Chips for Tablets

Tablets running on Intel's upcoming Atom chip code-named Clover Trail could come with the Android OS, adding another OS option for the processor platform in addition to Microsoft's soon-to-be-released Windows 8 OS, Intel said on Monday.

Intel for months has stressed that the Clover Trail chip was optimized for Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8, which is due for release late October. Hewlett-Packard, Acer and Lenovo have already announced Windows 8 tablets based on Clover Trail, and Intel has said 20 tablet designs are in the works.

But with Intel now porting Android to Clover Trail chips, tablet makers will be able to offer Clover Trail tablets running on the Android OS, or even offer dual-boot systems with Windows 8 and Android.

"Intel has plans for another version of this platform directed at Linux/Android; however we are not commenting on the platform specifics or market segments that at this time. Stay tuned," said an Intel spokeswoman in email.

Intel and Microsoft have worked closely to tune Clover Trail chips for Windows 8, which has a touch user interface. The OS has features to keep receiving email and social network feeds even when a device is in idle mode, much like smartphones. The power-management features on Windows 8 help extend battery life. A handful of Clover Trail tablets have been shown running Windows 8, but none have been shown running Android.

Intel will likely have to build in driver and software support for those features so Android can work on tablets with Clover Trail chips.

Intel earlier said it wasn't actively porting Android to work on Clover Trail tablets. Intel had plans to keep Windows 8 dedicated to Clover Trail, and to split the development of Android off to its Atom smartphone chip code-named Medfield, which will also go into some tablets. A smartphone based on the Medfield chip is expected to be announced by Motorola next week.

Intel hopes Clover Trail and Windows 8 will help the company expand in the tablet market, which is dominated by ARM. Microsoft has announced Windows RT for devices with ARM processors. Intel last week said it had already ported Android 4.1, code-named Jelly Bean, to smartphones. Many smartphones with ARM processors also run the Android OS.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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