Prospects for more, cheaper, higher specced, more up-to-date, tablets for ereading and other purposes took a turn for the better when Intel announced their new reference design platform for Android devices, with both hardware and software components. “At IDF today, we announced the Intel Reference Design Program for Android,” said Intel’s official blog post. “This program is our commitment to the industry to make it easier to bring Android devices based on Intel Architecture to market.”
The plethora of low-cost and often low-performance Android tablets flooding supermarket shelves proves that OEMs have not exactly been finding it that hard to bring Android devices to market, but Intel has decided to streamline the process, and consequently increase penetration of its own chips in the tablet space. Partly this is a response to the lingering problem of Android OS fragmentation, with older iterations of Android still sitting around on even relatively recent devices. “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,” the blog continues. “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.”
The program also offers some level of customization, so all devices based on the program will not wind up looking the same. While offered “a single binary image for Android,” the “ODMs/OEMs can choose from a pre-qualified set of components or a complete BOM specification, and build a system.” Intel at least accepts the wide variety of form factors for Android devices and is pushing the standardization on the software level.
Be prepared to see Intel inside tablets left right and center soon.
The ODMs/OEMs are the nexus of the fragmentation problem. Their margins are so tight that they have little interest in your being able to upgrade after the sale. They would rather sell you a whole new device.