Android Guy Weekly: With All This Talk of ARM, Where is Intel?


In our last few episodes of the Android Guy Weekly we’ve talked a lot about processors and SoCs. We’ve talked about ARM-based CPUs primarily, and one of our readers, Prateek, wants to know: where is Intel in all of this?

ARM is a Reduced Instruction Set Computing (RISC) architecture. Intel is a Complex Instruction Set Computer (CISC) architecture. Android, as we know it, runs on RISC hardware. RISC is generally considered faster and uses less power than CISC. The reasons for this are varied, but one of the factors is that reducing the instruction set offloads the heavy-lifting of the code to the compilation time, rather than run-time.

Where is Intel?

Throughout the years Intel has focused on desktop and server processors, without too much attention paid to “mobile” processors. When they began to develop for mobile they stuck pretty much to the x86 and x64 architecture for laptops and notebooks.

Intel even had a stake in a mobile operating system (based on Linux) that they hoped to compete against Google’s Android. When Nokia abandoned it for Windows Phone, Intel was left fairly lonesome in their mobile OS venture. They began working on porting Android to x86. Additionally, they developed a reference platform for an Android handset.

Advantages of Android

The advantage of Android over other operating systems is that apps run in a virtual machine (VM). This VM can then be ported to other platforms and apps written for Android can be run on any platform that supports Android — well, almost. Higher-end apps have special coding that tie in directly to GPU APIs for accelerated graphics. These APIs aren’t the same for every GPU, let alone for every platform. This means these apps will have to fall-back to the default graphics handling of the VM, which may or may not be optimized for the GPU on the SoC.

Nonetheless, to answer the question: Intel is up-and-coming in the Android playing field, they’re just a little late to the game.

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About The Author
Joe Levi
Joe graduated from Weber State University with two degrees in Information Systems and Technologies. He has carried mobile devices with him for more than a decade, including Apple's Newton, Microsoft's Handheld and Palm Sized PCs, and is Pocketnow's "Android Guy". By day you'll find Joe coding web pages, tweaking for SEO, and leveraging social media to spread the word. By night you'll probably find him writing technology and "prepping" articles, as well as shooting video. Read more about Joe Levi here.