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Intel on Android vs. Windows Tablet Development: We Go Where the Market Is

Remember Wintel? Since the birth of the original PC, Windows and Intel have been aligned in a marriage of cooperation and profitability.

Not so much anymore.

With traditional PCs dying and mobile devices such as tablets thriving, Intel is increasingly moving to the dominant tablet OS, Android. That's not news, of course, but the trend has become even more prominent recently, and Intel is actively courting Android developers with a new cross-platform development tool, still in a beta preview.

In a conference call held this week to discuss company first-quarter financials, Intel executives disclosed they sold 5 million tablet processors so far this year -- mostly for Android -- and expect that number to grow to 40 million at year's end.

When an analyst asked Intel CEO Brian Krzanich about what percentage of those chips will be running on Android, he answered:

Our mix of OSes reflects pretty much what you see in the marketplace. It's probably something on the order of 90 percent Android, 80 percent Android, 10 to 20 percent Windows. Our percentages look very much like the marketplace. So if Windows continues to grow and gain traction, I think our percentage would just align directly to that. Don't separate what we ship from what's basically in the marketplace.

Krzanich also touted the cross-platform capabilities of Intel's architecture. "One of the things an OEM gets when they build with Intel technology is that they can go into any OS and they can build a single platform and move that onto Chrome, onto Android, onto Windows, and that's a very unique capability that we provide to OEMs for flexibility," he said.

Even though the tablet business isn't yet as profitable as the PC business in terms of revenue and margins, Krzanich said it's "critical" to Intel for two reasons, one being scale and the need to be involved in all areas of personal computing.

"The second one is developer attention," Krzanich said. "You want developers creating new products, doing innovation on your architecture. This is a space that's got innovation. We are going to bring some of that innovation to this market."

That innovation, he said, "keeps the developers developing and interested in our platform. I think for all of those reasons, we want to be in this space and we will be in this space from now on."

Which brings us back to that development tool. The Integrated Native Development Experience (INDE) is a beta release of a cross-platform development suite, designed "to quickly and easily create applications targeting Android and Windows devices with native performance, outstanding battery life, and exposure to unique platform capabilities."

Ironically, it just runs on 64-bit Windows, but under "OS Target Support," Android is listed first, ahead of Windows. Mac OS X and Linux support are coming.

The tool supports development in C++ and Java and works with the Eclipse and Microsoft Visual Studio IDEs, the latter with the vs-android plug-in.

It features special components for handling media, threading and executing code on devices beyond the CPU.

The INDE development suite "enables efficient reuse of performance-sensitive code across operating systems and platforms with consistent C++/Java tools, libraries and samples for environment setup, code creation, compilation, debugging and analysism," Intel said in a product brief.

Developers wanting to take part in the beta can visit the "Intel INDE Opt-in Free Trial" page, which states: "To encourage developers to build Android applications for Intel architecture-based platforms, we are discounting [INDE] and the tools it contains for Android to $0 for a limited-time, 12-month license."

Will Microsoft catch up in the mobile OS marketplace? Please comment here or drop me a line.

Posted by David Ramel on April 18, 2014