Intel has had a rough time trying to enter the mobile market over the past few years. One of the main reasons for that was that OEMs already had the know-how and expertise to build their devices using ARM chips, and there would've been a significant cost in switching to a very different instruction set such as x86.
Intel has been working to make it easier for OEMs to port their software to its x86 chips by paying for some of the porting costs, but that hasn't been enough to give Intel a big boost in the smartphone or tablet markets. Yesterday at IDF 2014, Intel unveiled a new program to make it easier for OEMs and ODMs to adopt Intel chips when building Android devices by giving them a reference design (a tablet) that always gets updates within two weeks of Google launching a new version of Android.
"We will provide a single binary image for Android. Within this single binary, the ODMs/OEMs can choose from a pre-qualified set of components or a complete BOM specification, and build a system. This increases the speed with which ODMs/OEMs are able to create and ship new products while reducing their engineering costs," said Doug Fisher, VP and General Manager, Software and Services Group.
Intel says that it's been working very closely with Google to create this reference design. Apparently, Google gave Intel the list of components that is necessary for both current and future versions of Android (as per Google's vision of what Android should be doing in the future), and then Intel put AOSP (Android Open Source Project) on top of that hardware.
Intel is promising to update the reference hardware for two years, which is hopefully a feature that's going to be adopted by more chip makers, too, including Qualcomm (the market leader), but also Samsung, Mediatek, Nvidia and others. In fact, chip makers should probably support their chips for three years or longer if OEMs are to support the devices for at least two years, since a chip's life can be longer than a year. If some devices get a certain chip a year into its life, then those devices won't be supported much longer, even if the OEM itself wants to support them for two years.
As a small player in the mobile market, Intel has to push harder to impress OEMs and make them switch to its chips after they've already developed strong relationships with Qualcomm or other chip makers. However, that's ultimately going to convince other chip makers to work harder, too, in order to maintain those relationships. As customers, we're only going to benefit from this constant push and pull.