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AMD finally commits to Android as it looks beyond Windows

Agam Shah | May 7, 2014
After flirting with the idea for more than a year, Advanced Micro Devices has finally provided concrete details for bringing Android to its chips as the company looks to support more operating systems beyond Windows.

"They are focusing their low-power x86 on Windows, and to get to tablets on ARM, they will do Android," Brookwood said.

AMD could also tune Android for embedded devices used in cars, the military and other areas, said Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research.

"A good example would be infotainment where you may want to use a third-party app," McGregor said.

Android could open up a new market for AMD's tablet chips, which currently support only Windows. AMD's previous Z-01, Z-60 and Temash tablet chips were used in a handful of Windows 8 tablets, none of which sold well. Last week AMD launched its latest Mullins chip for tablets, which supports only the Windows OS. However, users can add a virtual layer of Android through the Bluestacks emulator.

But support for Android doesn't mean AMD will abandon Windows.

"Windows has a well-established franchise and is primarily an x86 play," Brookwood said. "AMD is one of two companies that can play with x86. That would be silly for them not to exploit it to their fullest capability."

Support for Android will also help AMD achieve its long-term goal of putting its chips in non-PC products, McGregor said. AMD is trying to diversity its operations by designing custom chips for non-PC products like game consoles and servers, and support for a variety of operating systems is important.

It may be technically possible to build a dual-boot Windows and Android PC through a Project SkyBridge motherboard with an x86 and an ARM core. But analysts said that dual-boot systems would require many changes in the BIOS, and users may not be attracted to the Windows and Android disconnect with the files residing in two different file systems.

"Dual-boot systems ... don't make sense" for Project SkyBridge, Brookwood said.

 

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