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Intel aims Obsidian at Tizen, AMD embraces Android

Jun 11, 2013  |  Eric Brown
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Intel demonstrated a prototype UI (user interface) called Obsidian, designed for Tizen and, possibly, Android devices. The news follows a week of Android-on-x86 developments, which include an announcement that AMD is ready to jump on Android and Chrome OS, and the appearance of Intel’s Android tablet reference platform running on a Intel Silvermont “Bay Trail” SoC.

An anonymous Intel staffer showed off a home-grown smartphone user interface (UI) overlay to Ars Technica designed for Tizen 2.0 and, possibly, Android. Intel’s “Obsidian” mobile skin will first appear on a “Josephine” reference device that should be “development-ready” in July, says the June 9 Ars report.



Leaked Intel Obsidian UI photos
(click images to enlarge; source: ArsTechnica.com)

 

The photos and a pair of videos show an unremarkable, very early-stage interface designed to provide a basic platform for OEM app developers. The flat, 2D design is based on “very boxy, closely-packed icons” somewhat similar to those found in Windows Phone or Android, says Ars Technica. Other features include three persistent soft keys on the bottom of the screen, an icon rotation notification alert system, and slide-to-unlock functionality.

It is unclear whether any device running a UI layer that appears anything like Obsidian will ever ship, as Intel’s OEM partners will likely want to add their own twists. Tizen is intended to let OEMs and mobile providers customize the UI layer to a greater extent than is possible with Android. There does not appear to be much interest in pushing a “pure Tizen” experience similar to the “pure Google” Android interface found on Google’s Nexus devices.

Presumably, Obsidian is intended for non-Samsung Tizen phones and other devices running on Intel processors like its Clover Trail+ Atom (CT+) system-on-chips or upcoming Silvermont Atom SoCs. Samsung is likely to add a custom version of its own industry-leading TouchWiz UI layer to the ARM Cortex-A9 based Tizen phone(s) it is planning to ship later this year.
Intel and Samsung are the two most powerful backers of the Linux Foundation hosted Tizen.org project. In addition to targeting smartphones and tablets, Tizen is also slated for in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) systems and other devices. In fact, Intel recently demonstrated a laptop running Tizen 3.0 in a GNOME shell.
 

Market analyst expects Tizen growth

Meanwhile, market analyst ABI Research last week projected that Tizen will be the “most notable player” among the emerging Linux-based mobile operating systems, and forecast that 65 percent of its future installed base will be in the Asia-Pacific region.
 

Supporters of Mozilla’s Firefox OS may question that assessment considering their mobile platform’s recent momentum, including a partnership with Foxconn. Last week, Foxconn, also known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., demonstrated a tablet prototype running Firefox OS, and said it was working with Mozilla on four other devices, potentially including smart TVs and digital signage systems.
 

Intel shares new Haswell details, shows Silvermont reference tablet

Intel dominated much of the news coming out of the Computex show in Taiwan last week, with its 4th Generation Core (aka “Haswell”) processor launch. Intel announced that the Haswell processors would offer up to 15 percent faster performance than Ivy Bridge Core processors, while reducing power consumption by as much as 50 percent. Intel confirmed that Samsung’s Android-powered Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 tablet will run on a CT+ chip, and said that future mobile versions of Haswell due later this year will run on Android as well as Windows 8 tablets.



Haswell offers faster performance at much lower power
(click image to enlarge)

 

In addition, Intel provided new details on a low-power version of the initial “Bay Trail” Silvermont mobile SoC called Bay Trail-T. The SoC offers a built-in LTE modem (XMM 7160) and is designed for Android and Windows 8 tablets, says Intel. In addition, the chipmaker privately demonstrated a prototype Android reference tablet running on a Bay Trail SoC (click image at right for a larger version at TweakTown.com).
 

AMD jumps on Android, Chrome OS bandwagons

Valiantly fighting back — as always — against the Intel press tsunami, AMD also tipped plans to be a player in the ARM-dominated world of mobile Android devices. In an interview with PCWorld at Computex, AMD senior vice president and general manager Lisa Su said the x86 chipmaker is expanding its custom-chip business, and will adapt its processors for OEMs that want to build laptops or tablets with Android or Chrome OS. No launch details were tipped, but she added that AMD is already working with unnamed developers on creating Android applications for AMD chips.

“Android and Chrome OS offer flexibility for third-party chip design and integration,” Su was quoted as saying. “I think Android and Chrome tend to be in the entry form factors — the tablets, the low-end clamshells.” According to Su, AMD’s commitment to Windows 8 remains unchanged.

PCWorld noted that a project is already underway to port Android to AMD processors, a task that has been eased by Intel’s earlier porting project. The story also said that AMD’s previous Z-01 and Z-60 tablet chips were “used in just a handful of Windows tablets, none of which sold well.”

AMD continues to find customers in the embedded Linux world, with new products like its Linux-ready AMD Embedded G-Series SoC, but has previously said it would avoid the mobile market. Now, however, the company appears to be aiming its recently announced dual-core A4 and quad-core A6 (“Temash”) processors at Android, in addition to its previously promoted support for Windows 8 tablets. The Temash SoCs are said to run on as little as 3.9 Watts, offer up to 8-hour battery life, and target high-end tablets, hybrid tablet/notebooks, and low-end notebooks.

AMD’s A4 and A6 Temash SoCs are due to ship later this year along with higher-powered models designed for Windows, dubbed Kabini and Richland. At Computex, AMD showed off a Kabini-based ASRock KA5200-ITX motherboard for low-powered PCs and mini-PCs (click image at right for larger photo at ComputerBase.de).
 

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