Intel and Apress have released a free 380-page ebook called “Android on x86: an Introduction to Optimizing for Intel Architecture.”
The “Android on x86” announcement refers to the ebook as “a one-stop reference guide to mindful programming” of Android applications using x86 platforms. Presumably, un-mindful hackers who’ve never quite mastered the Lotus Position will get something out of it as well. According to Intel’s notes, there are some “technicalities” to developing Android apps on x86 processors like the Atom, but once you’ve mastered these “nuances,” it’s easier than you might think.
Written by Iggy Krajci, a software engineer at Cummings Engineering, and Darren Cummings, the company’s founder and CEO, “Android on x86: an Introduction to Optimizing for Intel Architecture” starts off by making the business case for using x86 for Android devices. It then guides readers through installing the Android SDK for Intel Architecture, and explores the differences between x86 and ARM processor architectures.
Android on x86
The Android port to x86 is fairly mature by now, but some optimization is required to make your apps shine. Optimization tips are provided for native code, hardware acceleration, and advanced profiling of multimedia applications. The book goes on to cover software requirements, and programming tasks, including C++ optimizations.
Further sections show how to create and port applications, debug x86 applications, and work with Android’s NDK (Native Development Kit). The book also introduces the Intel Hardware Accelerated Execution Manager (Intel HAXM) hypervisor.
A Brief History of Android on Atom
We’ve seen a few Intel Core based devices running Android, but for the most part, when Intel refers to x86 in regards to Android, it’s talking about the Intel Atom. And although embedded versions of the Atom, such as the new Atom E3800, support Android, most of the focus has been on smartphones, followed by tablets.
Intel first revealed plans to port Android 2.2 (“Froyo”) to the Atom back in June 2010. In Sept. 2011, Intel announced a collaboration with Google on optimizing Intel’s Atom processor platform for Android, and later that year, showed off a prototype of an Android smartphone based on its “Medfield” Atom processor.
Intel Atom Z34xx
Few Android device vendors bit on Medfield — the Intel Atom Z2460 – but the next-generation Atom Z2580 (“Clover Trail+”) gained more traction, finding its way into a wider range of smartphones, such as the Motorola Razr i. Last month, Intel launched its 64-bit Atom Z34xx (“Merrifield”) with high hopes that the 22nm-based design could finally keep up with ARM on power efficiency. The Atom Z34xx would certainly appear to compete with high-end ARM SoCs on performance.
The major question now may no longer be power consumption, but price. The bar here keeps rising, as low-cost ARM SoCs from vendors such as Rockchip and Allwinner put pressure on all mobile SoC vendors to lower prices.
Intel’s 380-page “Android on x86: an Introduction to Optimizing for Intel Architecture,” written by Iggy Krajci and Darren Cummings, is available now as a free ebook from Apress. New Apress users will need to sign up for a free account before gaining access to free downloads of the ebook in pdf, epub, and mobi formats. A print version is available for $39.99.