Intel has announced an alliance with Google for Android-based smartphones and tablets to be optimised for Intel’s chips, highlighting the fracturing of the US chipmaker’s decades-long relationship with Microsoft that spurred the adoption of the personal computer.
The announcement came at the same time as Microsoft unveiled its Windows 8 operating system, stressing it would work with processors based on designs of the UK’s Arm for the first time, as well as those of Intel.
The so-called Wintel alliance, intertwining Microsoft’s dominant Windows operating system with Intel’s leading microprocessor, has reigned supreme in the age of the PC. But the advance of tablets and smartphones and the failure of Microsoft and Intel to make significant inroads into those markets has put strains on their relationship.
Apple has led in both areas and other manufacturers have chosen Google’s Android over Microsoft’s Windows operating system and low-power Arm-based chips rather than Intel ones.
At their respective annual developer conferences on Tuesday, Intel and Microsoft sought to show they were becoming competitive in these new areas with their latest advances.
Intel revealed its own designs for its first Android smartphones and tablets and said phones from a number of handset-makers using its chips would appear in the first half of next year.
Significantly, all of its first phones to be shipped will be Android-based rather than running Windows software.
Andy Rubin, head of mobile at Google, appeared on stage for a keynote speech by Paul Otellini, Intel chief executive. While they gave few details other than saying that future versions of Android would be optimised for Intel’s chips, Mr Rubin’s appearance was an important signal of the shifting alliances.
Mr Otellini told reporters afterwards that he was not worried about the threat from Arm on a Windows tablet or future PCs.
“I like our chances on both sides … if we have the best chip, we win. I’m perfectly comfortable that this is actually an opportunity for us to help us go faster in places like tablets. Microsoft could help energise the tablet market,” he said.
The world’s biggest chipmaker also showed off the first of a new category of Ultrabooks, which go on sale this month.
The laptops, modelled on the success of Apple’s MacBook Air, are another counter to the threat from tablets – offering similar features such as a thin and light design, instant-on capabilities and all-day battery life.