Intel's new Clover Trail chip will support Android & Linux

Intel's new Clover Trail chip will support Android & Linux

Summary: There have been rumors that Intel's new Atom CPU, Clover Trail, would only support Windows 8, but not Android or Linux. We now know that the chip will support these open-source operating systems as well.

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When the "news" came out that Intel wouldn't be supporting Linux on its new Atom CPU, Clover Trail, I didn't buy it. This next-generation Intel Atom processor was always meant primarily for Windows 8; but with Intel's x86 instruction set, it would also always support Android and Linux.

We now know that Intel will officially support the popular open-source operating systems on the Clover Trail family as well.

In an e-mail from an Intel spokesperson, Intel said, "Intel has plans for another version of this platform directed at Linux/Android; however we are not commenting on the platform specifics or market segments at this time. Stay tuned.”

Earlier this year Intel had released a new low-power Atom processor, the Medfield, primarily for Android. These one-core chips are now being used in engineering samples running Android 4.1, Jelly Bean, and the just announced Motorola RAZRi.

The “problem” with Clover Trail for Android and Linux was that it had two cores. Intel has long been concerned with Android's power and heating requirements for multi-core Atom CPUs for mobile platforms. There was never any difficulty with running Android or Linux on Clover Trail. The trouble was getting it to work efficiently with Clover Trail's power management.

Clover Trail is designed to have much better battery life than the earlier Atom processors. It does this with a new power state called S0ix or “active idle.” Intel claims that Clover Trail -- as well as other Haskell family chips --  will use 20 times less power while in active idle state, compared with when it’s on and idling. In this state, the system will continue to keep its network connection up and to be able to quickly wake up when a user "turns" a Clover Trail tablet on.

Intel_Hawell_power
Intel will support Android and Linux on the new power-efficient Clover Trail and other Haswell processors.

Since Haswell, Intel's forthcoming fourth-generation Core processors, will be Intel's primary processor for 2013, there was never any question that Linux would support its new power management features. Indeed, Intel has already been working on Linux support for active idle. In July, Rajeev Muralidhar, an Intel software architect and Linux kernel developer, presented a paper on integrating the standard Linux and Android power management architectures with aggressive low power idle standby states, aka active idle, in Medfield chips.

In short, while Intel was making Windows 8 support its first priority for Clover Trail, the company had also been working to make Android and Linux work with its key power management features.

That said, some Linux experts dismiss Clover Trail as a dead-end chip. Bruce Perens, one of the founders of the Open Source Initiative, wrote in his blog that, “Atom isn't really the right architecture for portable devices with limited power budgets. Intel has tried to address this by building a hidden core within the chip that actually runs RISC instructions, while providing the CISC instruction set that ia32 programs like Microsoft Windows expect. But this doesn't approach ARM's power efficiency.”

In short, “Clover Trail's target is a future Windows 8 Tablet. ... If you expect the Windows tablet to do as well as the Windows 8 smartphones recently released by Nokia and others, you probably aren't far from wrong. Clover Trail, built with partner Microsoft, might be Intel's biggest loser since Itanium, built with partner HP.”

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Topics: Android, Hardware, Intel, Linux, Mobile OS, Mobility, Processors, Tablets, Windows

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38 comments
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  • Intel's new Clover Trail chip will support Android & Linux

    Kudos Intel.
    RickLively
    • Yeah, except it's not true

      They're just saying this because of the backlash from the community over the "Windows-Only chip". The Linux/Android Clover Trail chip does not and will not exist.
      symbolset
    • Another version for Linux

      "Intel has plans for another version of this platform directed at Linux/Android."

      I think we need to differentiate between the processor and the platform.

      It is clear that a Clover Trail SoC has been designed specifically for Windows 8 This will not work on Linux. This may be related to Microsoft's implementation of UEFI, connected standby and power management, and special firmware for Windows 8, for example. secure boot.

      Intel states that there will be another version of a Clover Trail that will work with Linux. In other words, you can not load Linux on machines with the Windows 8 version of a Clover Trail.
      reidar76
  • But why?

    "Intel has plans for another version of this platform directed at Linux/Android; however we are not commenting on the platform specifics or market segments that at this time."

    Why is "another version" required or desirable? I still think I may smell a rat somewhere in this.
    D.T.Long
    • agreed

      something is not right here...so we have two different CPUs for windows and linux? what about dual booting can we do it or not? are we going to be blocked in one platform?!
      these are important qs which intel should answer it seems they are going to take the choice away by their messed up architecture....
      L3thargic
      • What's the problem?!

        Android-based smartphones and tablets aren't anything like the desktop GNU/Linux market. You can walk into a local brick and mortar retail store and have a choice of Android-based devices. There's no need to buy a Windows 8-based tablet and install Android on it.

        As for Intel and Android, Intel (and their Wind River Systems subsidiary) are bullish on Android:

        http://www.windriver.com/products/mobile-linux/android.html
        Rabid Howler Monkey
        • I don't get your point if there was one

          Dismissing the issue is no explanation nor justification for Intel's statements.

          Care to try again?
          D.T.Long
          • My point, as far as your post is concerned, is that I don't smell a rat

            Intel is a top corporate contributor to the Linux kernel, second only to Red Hat:

            "Counting Contributions: Who Wrote Linux 3.2?
            https://www.linux.com/learn/tutorials/560928-counting-contributions-who-wrote-linux-32

            Intel joined The Document Foundation (TDF) Advisory Board earlier this year:

            http://blog.documentfoundation.org/2012/02/23/the-document-foundation-announces-libreoffice-for-windows-from-suse-is-now-available-in-intel-appupsm-center/

            Members of TDF Advisory Board provide advice and funding for the LibreOffice project.

            Intel is a member of the Open Handset Alliance (as is their Wind River Systems subsidiary):

            http://www.openhandsetalliance.com/oha_members.html

            Finally, lots of Linux servers are running on Intel components.
            Rabid Howler Monkey
          • That was before

            Now they've given us the processor equivalent of a Winmodem. What are we supposed to think of their future course now?
            symbolset
          • Think? Maybe FACT CHECK them?

            There is already open source code for future generation of Intel SoCs, CPUs, and GPUs in upstream Linux components...

            So about what future are you talking????
            przemoli
          • Intel apologists?

            Nobody has tried to explain WHY Intel "needs" two different versions of the same processor, one for Windows and one for Linux. All I read is what Intel has done for Linux and may do in the future.

            Fine, but it does not address my point AT ALL, which is pretty pathetic.

            Unless someone can provide a sensible explanation, it still concerns me.
            D.T.Long
          • RE: Intel apologists?

            And one more thing. This just came it today:

            http://www.zdnet.com/tizen-linux-heads-for-vehicles-as-car-makers-and-tech-firms-form-workgroup-7000004491/

            And wouldn't you know it, Intel is actively involved in the Tizen.

            It's one thing to be an Intel apologist and quite another to to look broadly at Intel's many contributions to Linux and open-source.
            Rabid Howler Monkey
          • Valley View SoC Has Full Linux Support

            Intel's next generation of SoC, Valley View, has full Linux support right from the beginning (Intel is already submitting patches for Valley View).

            In fact, not only the CPU, but the GPU is fully supported with open code because the GPU is an Intel chip. This is unlike Clover Trail, which has a GPU from PowerVR, and thus has binary only support in Linux for the GPU, since PowerVR refuses to lend any support to open source drivers for their chips (of course there are some reverse engineering efforts).

            Intel is hardly abandoning Android or Linux with future SoC development.

            It appears that Microsoft has made a deal with both Intel and AMD to have exclusive support for Windows 8 in this generation of low power chips (including Intels's Clover Trail SoCs and AMD's Hondo APUs), but only for a limited time. AMD clarified that their APUs would work with Linux, but not all the features of the chip would not be specifically supported in Linux at first. Linux support would come later. It appears that something similar is going on with Clover Trail.
            CFWhitman
          • Better Than Nothing

            Intel clearly wants the pc buyer to be buying an Intel processor, regardless of whether the os is Windows, OS X, or Linux. But, looking at the numbers of new computers that will ship next year under those various os flags, we see where Intel has to put its priorities. Any announcement that includes date available and price supersedes an announcement that includes either the phrase "real soon now" or "sometime in the next year."

            It's better than nothing and there's no reason to doubt Intel's sincerity on the matter, but I feel better when there are more specifics, especially as I think the proponents of the vague pronouncement figure people project optimistically.
            DannyO_0x98
          • Steadfastly avoiding the real issue

            The question was WHY Intel needs one piece of silicon for Windows and a different one for Linux.

            It does not matter how many links are produced showing Intel supporting Linux.

            The fundamental question remains unanswered. And I am STILL suspicious.
            D.T.Long
          • A more fundamental question

            Obviously this is a coordinated effort on Microsoft's parts to have _both_ major x86 vendors announce a commitment to Windows-only chips for Windows 8 in the same week. What is it about Windows 8 that is so poor it needs to be protected from honest competition on open low power platforms? I suspect I know the answer, but we'll have to wait and see.

            When the inevitable antitrust suit comes out of this the court documents will shine a bright light on these shenanigans.
            symbolset
          • It was explained

            "This is unlike Clover Trail, which has a GPU from PowerVR, and thus has binary only support in Linux for the GPU, since PowerVR refuses to lend any support to open source drivers for their chips (of course there are some reverse engineering efforts)."

            That was from a post made before yours, DT.
            Michael Alan Goff
      • If Intel worked with Microsoft on the tech

        They may jointly own the patents. Which would naturally include nondisclosures, and an agreement to not grant licenses for the technologies to others. Or maybe Microsoft patented some of the technologies during the development partnership. Intel may find that they literally can't make the chip open - which they should have thought about before working with Microsoft in the first place.

        Still a dirty deal here somewhere.
        symbolset
      • Something like Apple's A5 on the iPad?

        Why should Intel continue to make a processor that will run both Windows and Linux if they are selling the chips to say, MS, who plans on using them exclusively on Windows Tablets?

        If they make two chips, each optimized for the particular OS, then that's a win for Intel, manufacturers, and consumers.
        William Farrel
      • Who said anything about making tablets dual bootable?

        I've never read that one of the requirements of a tablet is that it MUST be dual bootable.

        Not to sound like a smart-ass answer, but isn't that your problem. not Intel, Acer, Dell, (ect) or MS's?
        William Farrel