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Android x86 Project: Potential Game Changer or Total Dud?

written by: M.S. Smith•edited by: J. F. Amprimoz•updated: 4/14/2011

Android was developed primarily for ARM based processors, but it is an open operating system, and there is a project that is porting Android to x86 based computers.

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    Running Android on Your x86 Tablet or Computer

    Android x86 One of the biggest problems facing small x86 compatible devices right now is the lack of operating system support. Windows is primarily designed for use on devices with large displays and an extremely accurate method of input (a mouse). Without one or both of these, Windows becomes much harder to use.

    Other x86 compatible operating systems, like the wide variety of Linux based options available, don't do enough to fix the problem - and they're poorly supported, which means you'll have a hard time finding software that will run on them.

    Porting Android to x86 is one possible way to solve the problems faced by small x86 tablets and computers. But is the Android x86 project really mature enough to run on your system?

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    Hardware Support

    According to the Android x86 project website there are just a handful of computers and tablets that are known to be 100% compatible with Android x86. They are:

    • ASUS Eee PCs/Laptops
    • Viewsonic Viewpad 10
    • Dell Inspiron Mini Duo
    • Samsung Q1U
    • Viliv S5
    • Lenovo ThinkPad x61 Tablet

    These are listed as supported because numerous people have tried them and have had success with the installation process. However, there still appear to be many limitations to Android x86, even on devices that have managed to run with it installed. Some users have reported problems with getting cameras to work. In other cases, there has been difficulity getting WiFi to work simultaneously with Ethernet. Multi-touch gestures are mostly non-functional at this time.

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    Software Support

    Android x86 Review The Android x86 project is not currently endorsed by any company. It is an open project that has been given some support by corporations in the form of donated hardware, but that's as far as it goes right now.

    Unfortuantely, this seems to have resulted in limited software support. Although Android apps are theoretically able to run on any Android operating system, the truth seems to be that some apps are only able to run on ARM based systems. It's considered common knowledge on the Android x86 discussion forms that most Android games won't run on a system with Android x86 installed.

    Honestly, this lack of support is not unusual. I would not be surprised if many developers don't even know that Android x86 exists, and those that do have little incentive to care about it at this juncture.

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    The Future of Android x86

    It seems likely that Android x86 has a future, but that future most likely sits with Intel. If Intel can place a solid, well supported build of Android onto Intel powered tablet devices, the company will at least have a chance of being competitive. If stuck with Windows, Intel has little hope in the market, at least until Microsoft release a version of Windows that is more friendly to devices with touch input.

    There have already been rumors that Intel plans to push hardware manufacturers into selling x86 based tablets using Android. This branch will most likely not have any connection to the current Android x86 project, but there's not enough information yet available to determine with certainty what Intel has planned.

    Should Intel become involved, there is a chance that Android x86 will become relevant to the market. For now, however, it's just a geeky project. Nifty, but certainly not something your average user would ever consider on their x86 compatible device.

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    References

    Android x86 - Front Page

    The Register - Intel to pay OEMs to build Atom-Android tablets?

    Images credited to the Android x86 project