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Qualcomm Demos Eee PC Running Android OS 125

Posted by timothy
from the parallel-convergence dept.
angry tapir writes "Qualcomm has showed off a version of Asustek Computer's Eee PC based on its Snapdragon processor at the Computex exhibition, including one running Google's Android operating system. The new laptop — which Qualcomm calls a smartbook — is thinner and lighter than current members of Asustek's Eee PC netbook lineup because the 1GHz Snapdragon processor that it uses does not require a heat sink or a cooling fan."
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Qualcomm Demos Eee PC Running Android OS

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  • by Sinning (1433953) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @08:12AM (#28180907)
    Why port Android to x86 when you can just run Android apps in Ubuntu?
  • Overhead (Score:2, Interesting)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @08:21AM (#28180993) Journal

    Why port Android to x86 when you can just run Android apps in Ubuntu?

    Like I said in my post:

    but it looks like I'm left to emulating it (pretty much not an option considering the overhead).

    I tried doing this on a P4 with 2 gigs of DDR RAM a while ago in Ubuntu 8.04 if I recall correctly. It was slow as hell.

    I don't know if the SDK has since matured since then but I was trying to do their tutorial examples and I would experience really bad startup times ... like waiting minutes for everything to initialize. Sometimes it would bomb out before making it to the applications screen in the emulator. Maybe it was memory pagination? Anyway, I also assume the emulation stops you from efficiently using the hardware like the camera? Does the emulator have access to those? I could be wrong and I'll certainly give it a shot if I find reports of people online having no problem firing up Ubuntu on their eee PC and emulating Android and running an application on it no problem. As it stands, I'd probably just look for an alternative in Ubuntu to that application!

    Who knows? Maybe I'll sell this one and trade up when the new Snapdragons come out and I'll wean myself from the Microsoft teat entirely with only ARM Linux and applications? :-) I must guiltily admit that I kind of enjoy the dual boot though and am really just curious what Android would have to offer on a netbook.

  • by hattig (47930) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @08:36AM (#28181157) Journal

    Actually Qualcomm wants them to be called "smartbooks".

    http://www.nordichardware.com/news,9392.html [nordichardware.com]

  • Re:Overhead (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Sinning (1433953) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @08:39AM (#28181187)
    Sorry for the confusion, I was referring more to this. [arstechnica.com]

    Rather than running the Android SDK emulator.

    It looks to be a much more promising alternative to emulating the entire android OS.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @08:57AM (#28181421)

    No, that's not the important point at all...at least not the most important point.

    1. Android is "free" (unlike XP or Vista or Windows 7 or even Ubuntu on ARM)
    2. ARM is considerably cheaper than Intel processors
    3. Longer battery life from power consumption benefits (obviously a nice bonus but the big guns are going for a cheaper way to make netbooks)

    I work for one of the companies that is making software for these new devices and Asus is going to bring out netbook based devices as well. Oh there is Android for x86 as well (again cost cutting measures) but whether that comes out for the public remains to be seen. I've installed and used Android on several netbooks and this is old news [talkandroid.com].

  • by PhilHibbs (4537) <snarks@gmail.com> on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @09:07AM (#28181547) Homepage Journal

    Navigation apps aren't directly dependent on the GPS hardware, they are dependent on the Location API which will still return a position based on cell tower triangulation. I can't comment on "and the like" as that's a bit of a broad question, but in general they will all be calling API functions that I guess will return a default or error value if the hardware doesn't support it.

  • by pseudonomous (1389971) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @09:11AM (#28181623)

    Microsoft already has Operating Systems that will run on the Arm architecture, Windows Mobile / WinCE, but I don't see what benefit you would get from using them, both taking your suggestion or using Windows Mobile would still leave an operating system that might look vaguely familiar, but still doesn't act quite like users would expect, that doesn't run much in the terms of familiar applications. I would think that, like with the Linux-based acer and msi netbooks, you would get a very high return rate on something like this.

  • Every single eee PC available (with Atom processors) on the market is x86, to my knowledge.

    That is correct, but I can't imagine why it's relevant. Did you mean to distinguish them from x86-64 or IA64? Or are you saying that all Atom-powered Eee's are not powered by ARM processors? That seems to be a vacuous truth.

    And for those of you skeptical of the speed:

    When the first Snapdragon-based devices hit the market later this year, they will have a 1GHz Arm processor core but that will increase to 1.3GHz next year, with the release of Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8650A, Pineda said.

    If the Netburst architecture taught us anything, it was that clock speed isn't everything.

    Has anyone found anything on how Android applications dependent on cell phone-ish hardware (like GPS location and the like) will be handled inside a device like the eee PC?

    Why would this would be any different than how it's handled in any other linux-based OS?

    You seem excited by the thought of a handheld computer. I have to ask, why do you want one? I don't think there's any market for them. We've had PDAs and many other more specialized handheld devices before, and there is certainly a niche for the 'smartphone' class of devices, but what would be the point of a general-purpose computer smaller than an Eee? Touchscreen or no, anything with a keyboard smaller than about seven inches is useful for SMS-length messages only. So unless you're going to invent a radically new method of user input, the market is already segmented based on that design decision. We either already have what you're talking about as far as a 'handheld computer', or it's not likely to happen.

  • by Locutus (9039) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @09:24AM (#28181847)

    there should be no need for supporting "mobile broadband cards" with the universal 3G radio built into the Smartbooks. Unless they are misusing the term universal. The only difference between a netbook and a Smartbook is that the Smartbooks have the 3G radio builtin and the software to use it.

    I think Qualcomm has a hit here.

    LoB

  • by bsDaemon (87307) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @09:33AM (#28182027)

    I just bought an EeePC last Thursday because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about and because I determined that there was a niche to fill between my Toshiba (which is always hooked up to an external monitor, speakers, mouse, graphics tablet and all sorts of other things), and my BlackBerry Storm.I got it at best buy, and so of course all I really had for an option was Windows XP, and I'm not sure how it'd really do with Linux (I suppose if they've been selling Linux versions the hardware should all be compatible, but I spend enough time fussing with Linux on the servers at work to really want to do Linux of FreeBSD for a hobby anymore). I'm actually typing this on it now.

    I have yet to really play with Android, even though one of my coworkers has a G1, I just haven't really felt the urge to take it for a spin. The idea of having a "phone" OS on a "computer" seems a tad bit odd to me, but I suppose its just the opposite of the deal with the stripped-down OSX on the iPhone, which I have messed with a bit (I just don't feel like switching to AT&T or I'd probably pick one up... the only thing my Storm really has going for it is the tactile feedback to the depressible touch screen).

    Is there anything particularly special about Android over any other Linux distribution, other than the Google name, that makes it well suited for this type of application? From what I've read, it seems to be just a Linux kernel combined with Java phone crap and not really anything particularly special, though as I must admit, I've not really been following it too closely.

  • The problem with windows ce/mobile is that it's advertised as being windows when it really isn't.. This creates the expectation of compatibility with desktop windows. The mobile versions of windows however are not compatible at all, either at the binary or source level (and most apps don't even come with source), such that there are very few available apps...
    An arm version of linux on the other hand really is linux, and has 99% of the same applications available for it, since in most cases it's just a case of a recompile.

  • by Locutus (9039) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @09:48AM (#28182277)

    you do not know Microsoft. They live and breath by Windows and the Windows APIs and that product is why they still exist. It would be a very small fraction of todays company that would promote the use of another OS instead of Windows. The Windows OS brings in most of their profits and the extents they go to protect that marketshare should be an indicator of how tied to it they are.
     

    You'll see them making offers companies can't refuse and dumping billions into stopping the move to Linux before you'll see an MS Linux. They'll push Windows Mobile onto this platform or even port XP to ARM before there's an MS Linux or any MS nonWindows OS. IMO.
     

    LoB

  • This is why Linux really stands to benefit...
    Even if windows were ported to arm, all of the applications would still need to be ported by their respective vendors, many of which wouldn't bother, or would release a castrated "mobile" version instead..

    Most commercial vendors won't port to a platform unless there is a sufficient market for it, and most customers won't buy a product unless there is already sufficient software availability.. A catch 22 that's already killed Itanium.

    Linux on the other hand, is already ported to arm, and most of the applications you would use on a typical linux desktop are also already ported... And any new open source applications being written would be trivially portable between various different processors too.

  • by Qbertino (265505) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @10:01AM (#28182529)

    As far as modern day handheld computers go, I have to say that the Asus EEE induced second coming of the Netbook [wordpress.com] and its liklings [computermu...oningen.nl] has had extremley positive side effects on the market in the last two years.

    Portability? Check.
    Openess and flexibility of plattform? Check.
    Price? Check.
    Versatility? Check.

    However, there is just one more thing I want before I can say they are on par with the mid-nineties PC handhelds that where available back then and could easyly keep up with their big desktop brothers in terms of getting the job done: Battery Uptime and/or easy replacement of battery.

    Let me explain: The HP 200LX [gmxhome.de], Sharp PC 3000, 3100 and its non-name rebrands ran on AA cells. And while the off-grid uptime was a meager 3,5 hours at max, you could easyly replace them with rechargeables or - in an emergency - with fresh AA cells from the next gas station or convenience store.
    I want that kind of battery time or convenience from todays handhelds aswell. If convenience is not an option, I want the same uptime I could get from my old Palm m105 with folding keyboard attached or from the original Psion Netbook: 40 hours. ... On the Palm that uptime came from 3 or 4 AAA cells btw - but that's another story.

    Substancially increased battery uptime without outlandish pricing - then handhelds are back in the game for me. It would be about time.

    My 2 cents.

  • by Locutus (9039) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @10:17AM (#28182831)

    probably under contract with Microsoft. You know, the fine print that keeps showing up after 20 years of company lawyers being surprised by Microsoft's tactics. The funny thing about lawyers, each one thinks _they_ are smarter than the other lawyers and keep signing deals with Microsoft thinking they're getting away with something.
     

    It was obvious to me that they signed a deal with the devil when the next gen eEEPC's shipped. They used the 50/50 rule to say they ship 50% Linux systems and 50% Windows systems and that's why there were no Linux netbooks on store shelves. They boosted the hardware so Windows would run but then boosted the hardware more for the Linux versions and charged more for Linux. These are all signs of a "special" deal with Microsoft and they seem to be locked into this deal at the expense of the ARM systems. After all, if they can't ship Linux, how can they ship a viable ARM based system? So, ASUS can't play in this ARM netbook or Smartbook game and all they can do is try to put it down in an attempt to limit it's value and growth with marketing speak.
     

      So ASUS is out of the netbook/Smartbook game until their contract with Microsoft ends as far as I'm concerned. Windows is just not efficient enough to make a compelling small device OS.
     

    LoB

  • I want it NOW! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @11:20AM (#28183801)

    So when can I get my snapdragon powered mini-itx motherboard? It would make an ideal media centre.

  • by Thumper_SVX (239525) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @12:23PM (#28184695) Homepage

    I can tell you that my BeagleBoard [beagleboard.org] setup runs phenomenally fast on a 500/600Mhz ARM chip and 256MB of RAM. It's more than acceptable for 99.9% of all the apps I've thrown at it... be it basic web browsing, or even more complex stuff like GPS. It's silent, it's slick... and in fact the only weak point in my opinion is its reliance on SD cards for storage since they're SLOW. However, given its interfaces there's no reason you couldn't build something to interface to SATA or at least mini IDE interfaces... and the USB bus is at least 2.0.

    Still, I can definitely see this going places. I bought the BeagleBoard to play with and it ended up becoming an actual usable system on my network. I am thinking of buying another one and building a car PC out of it :)

  • by Hal_Porter (817932) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @01:16PM (#28185449)

    As far as I can tell they didn't do that with Snapdragon. It's a fast chip by Arm standards, but the memory subsystem is very similar to their previous chips. Then again that's probably because they're interested in selling chips for cellphones rather than notebooks.

    Now Snapdragon is great for the cellphones but and I don't see why they should start to build chips for the netbook market where Arm is competing at a massive disadvantage.

    The problem is a 2+Ghz, possibly out of order, Arm chip with fast busses, big caches (which means no space for onboard peripherals) and so on would not be very good for the cellphone market. Also chip development costs a fortune - Qualcomm spent tens of millions on a custom Arm implementation

    http://www.insidedsp.com/Articles/tabid/64/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/238/Qualcomm-Reveals-Details-on-Scorpion-Core.aspx [insidedsp.com]

    Overall, Qualcomm has made a huge investment in creating a custom implementation of the ARMv7 architecture. By way of comparison, Texas Instruments customized just the layout for the Cortex-A8 for its OMAP3 chips, and it has been reported that the process took 45 engineers working for a period of years. If so, Scorpion's development probably represents an investment on the order of tens of millions of dollars. And what's the payoff?

    At first glance, it doesn't look like much-as noted earlier, Scorpion is expected to run at 1 GHz in a 65 nm process, which is slightly lower than the 1.1 GHz top speed that ARM currently quotes for the Cortex-A8 in 65 nm. Scorpion is quoted as providing 2100 DMIPS at 1 GHz; Cortex-A8 is quoted at 2000 DMIPS at the same speed. However, a notable difference is that the Cortex-A8 top speed is for a TSMC GP (general-purpose) process, while the Scorpion speed is for the LP (low-power) process. ARM quotes the speed of Cortex-A8 in an LP process as roughly 650 MHz, and although TI does not publicize the exact speed of the hand-crafted, low-power Cortex-A8 core used in its OMAP3 chips, BDTI has estimated that it runs at roughly 450 MHz. (BDTI's benchmark results for the Cortex-A8 are available at BDTIâ(TM)s website, www.BDTI.com.) Thus, Qualcomm expects Scorpion to run significantly faster than Cortex-A8 when both are implemented in the low-power processes commonly used for mobile applications.

    Building an Arm that could compete with x86 would cost even more, they're up against Intel, AMD and Via all of whom already have faster chips and such a chip would not be very popular in the cellphone market. Actually the cellphone market is probably bigger than the desktop x86 market and Snapdragon is the top performer or close to it.

    In some ways it reminds me of PowerPC. Apple ditched the architecture because the main PPC vendors wanted to concentrate on designing for the embedded world where they were selling in huge volumes to the detriment of the desktop world where Apple wanted to operate but where the volumes were tiny,

  • by Daengbo (523424) <daengbo@nOsPAm.gmail.com> on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @12:52AM (#28192251) Homepage Journal

    "Frankly speaking, the first question, I would like to apologize that, if you look at Asus booth we've decided not to display this product," he said. "I think you may have seen the devices on Qualcomm's booth but actually, I think this is a company decision so far we would not like to show this device. That's what I can tell you so far. I would like to apologize for that." -- http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9133813 [computerworld.com]

    Asus didn't actually want to show off the hardware, though, which I think is a strange thing indeed since the tech industry seems quite excited about the product and it looked ready to ship.

    When asked about rumors that Asustek faced pressure from Microsoft and Intel over the use of Android and Snapdragon in the Eee PC, Tsang said "no, pressure, none."

    Intel spokesman Nick Jacobs said, "our customers are always free to make the choices they want," and declined further comment on "rumors and speculation."

    Unless, of course, you are a netbook manufacturer which wants to put a dual-core Atom in your product. Intel has promised to "penalize" manufacturers that do that.

    Obviously, I don't believe a thing coming out of their mouths.

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