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AMD helping Android fans port to x86

Intel and Google, not so keen

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A team of developers working privately to port the next version of Android to the x86 platform has been receiving a lot of support from AMD, but less from other key players.

The project is seeking to port the Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) android-4.0.1_r1 release build to the x86 platform, and Chih-Wei Huang, one of the enthusiasts involved, told The Register that AMD had not only donated two tablets to the cause, but also has a couple of engineers helping out. As a result, the porting to AMD’s Brazos platform is now largely complete and the source code has been made available.

The first porting of Android to the x86 platform was actually done by Google engineers, but he explained that the Google team had not been continuing with the project since Android version 1.5, aka Cupcake. While the developers submit patches to Google, they seldom hear back, although some Google engineers are helping out privately with the project. Intel, too, hasn’t been keen.

“Generally speaking, Google didn't care for the x86, at least before ICS,” he told The Register in an email conversation. “Intel doesn't care, either. They don't want to help us. I've tried to contact Intel in different ways, but the replies were negative.”

Intel’s position has caused the team considerable problems, not least in getting Android to work with the video chipsets, and particularly the hardware acceleration added to Chipzilla’s kit. Work is still continuing, but since this is a voluntary project by people who have day jobs, then Android users might have a while before they can plaster an Intel Inside sticker on their systems.

Chih-Wei Huang, an open source advocate based in Taiwan, started the project with a former colleague in June 2009, and it has morphed to the point where the scheme has 2,600 subscribers to the project forum. He said that while he tried to keep the porting process up to date, it was a lot of work and some people weren’t sharing data.

“Now ICS is more mature for x86 tablet or netbook, so there are more practical reasons to do that,” he said. “Actually, I know some vendors like Bluestack, Viewsonic, and Insyde have already shipped Android-x86.org based products. However, they never contribute back. That usually makes us feel bad and angry.”

When contacted by The Register, an Intel spokeswoman explained that Intel does work with the Android open source project, and submits material to this. However, in line with Google, it is concentrating its efforts on Google’s priorities for the platform: smartphones and tablets. AMD declined to comment on its plans in the area. ®

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