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Intel preps x86 Android for summer release

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Microsoft got some more bad news today: Intel is porting Android 2.2, née Froyo, to the x86 architecture.

"Our expectation is that [native x86 Android] will be based on the Froyo release and will be available this summer to developers," no lesser light than Renee James, Intel's software and services head honchette, told APC on Thursday.

In the main, Microsoft has owned the Intel Atom–based netbook market (sorry, Linux-lovers), while Google's Android has found success in the ARM processor–based smartphone market. But with an x86 Froyo on tap, Android could make inroads into the established netbook market as well as the nascent tablet market.

Which is news that's unlikely to cheer up inhabitants of the increasingly irrelevant corner offices of Redmond, Washington.

Intel is ramping up its efforts in the lucrative low end. As early as May 2009, Intel CEO Paul Otellini put his cards on the table, telling investors that his company was embracing netbooks, handhelds, consumer electronics, and embedded products. "That's what we're aiming at," he told the moneymen. "This is where we think the growth opportunity is for us."

Even before Otellini spoke at the investors' confab, Intel had joined Nokia to create the Moblin-Maemo mobile mashup, MeeGo. And after stumbling on its Menlow low-end attempt, Intel appears to have found if not its stride at least a bit of a loping gait with its recently released and much more power-miserly Moorestown platform.

Although Intel insists that Moorestown is aimed at smartphones, its use in netbooks and tablets would seem to fit its power and performance profiles quite nicely, with smartphones being a better target for Moorestown's follow on, Medfield.

Netbooks, tablet, and smartphones — three areas where the open-source Android can play quite nicely. From this vantage point, an x86 Android would give Microsoft a run for its money on netbooks and be a significant challenger as both OSes aim at tablets.

Smartphones? Microsoft is sinking fast in this market already, and whether Windows Phone 7 can pull them out of their tailspin is the billion-dollar question.

And then there's MeeGo — or, perhaps, with Intel's Android efforts in ascendancy, it may be time to consider rewriting that sentence to read: "And then there was MeeGo." ®

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