Intel: No Linux support for tablet processor
With reference to a recent presentation given by Intel employee Joseph Nielsen at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in San Francisco, The Inquirer reports that Linux won't run on Intel's Atom Z2760 tablet SoC (System on Chip), code-named Clover Trail; the presentation slides can be found by searching for session ID "TSMS002" on the IDF-SF12 web page, which requires users to log in.
However, the presentation doesn't offer any background details and enquiries to Intel have yet to clarify the situation. It appears that during the development of the dual-core SoC, which was designed for Windows 8 tablets from the start, Intel has closely cooperated with Microsoft to ensure good interoperability between the operating system and the SoC with its two x86 Atom cores. For this purpose, Intel has implemented features such as new hibernation modes that are supported in Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 operating system to achieve the longest possible battery life – an important feature in the tablet market that both Intel and Microsoft want to enter. Currently, this market is dominated by SoCs with ARM cores that run Google's Android or Apple's iOS mobile operating systems.
Whether Intel is just reluctant to work on the Linux support for Clover Trail itself or whether the SoC is so different from other x86 platforms that the open source community would have a hard time implementing adequate Linux support remains unclear. Intel provides Linux support for most of its chips and is actively involved in the development of the Linux kernel, Mesa 3D, X.org and Android.
The company also provides the Linux support for Atom Z2460 and Z2560 single core SoCs, code-named Medfield, that are designed for smartphones; these processors belong to the same Atom generation as Clover Trail. However, a proprietary driver is required to fully support Medfield's PowerVR graphics core, which was acquired from Imagination Technologies as an IP core; however, an Intel employee is working on a reverse engineered open source driver.
According to reports, the Clover Trail processor for tablets is to be complemented by a Clover Trail+ (Z2580) version for smartphones that is to receive Linux support. Intel has already submitted first components to support the next generation of Atom processors, code-named Valleyview, for integration into current Linux kernels. With Moorestown in 2010, Intel had even developed a "Linux-only processor" that used the SFI (Simple Firmware Interface) alternative to BIOS and UEFI which is only available under Linux – but the processor was commercially unsuccessful.
To be able to get a foot in the tablet market door as quickly as possible, both Intel and AMD are developing processors that aim to cooperate with Windows 8: According to another report by The Inquirer, AMD's Hondo development is focused on Windows 8. An AMD executive was quoted as saying that there are currently no plans to support Android; however, he did make it clear that Android could potentially be supported in the medium term.