SAN FRANCISCO: CHIPMAKER Intel has confirmed that it will not provide support for Linux on its Clover Trail Atom chip.
Intel's Clover Trail Atom processor can be seen in various nondescript laptops around IDF and the firm provided a lot of architectural details on the chip, confirming details such as dual-core and a number of power states. However Intel said Clover Trail "is a Windows 8 chip" and that "the chip cannot run Linux".
As Intel is pushing Clover Trail into tablets, a category of devices that is dominated by Linux based Android and the Unix BSD based IOS, the firm said it will not support Linux on Clover Trail.
Given that Intel said Clover Trail takes a lot of technology from its Medfield Atom processor, which runs Android on a number of middling smartphones, it seems that Chipzilla is putting up an artificial barrier to try to help Microsoft and its upcoming Windows 8 operating system.
While Intel's claim that Clover Trail won't run Linux is not quite true - after all it is an x86 instruction set so there is no major reason why the Linux kernel and userland will not run - given that the firm will not support it, device makers are unlikely to produce Linux Clover Trail devices for their own support reasons.
Intel didn't detail why it won't support Linux on Clover Trail processors and instead merely mumbled murkily that "there's a lot of software work that has to go into a chip to support it in an operating system".
Intel went to great lengths to highlight the new P-states and C-states in which it can completely shut down the clock of a core. The firm said the operating system needs to provide "hints" to the processor in order to make use of power states and it seems likely that such hints are presently not provided by the Linux kernel in order to properly make use of Clover Trail.
Intel's decision to support only Windows 8 on Clover Trail might work for laptops but seems very risky for tablets, where x86 tablets running Windows 8 look to be priced close to Apple's Ipad and significantly higher than Google's Nexus 7 and Amazon's Kindle Fire HD.
When the PC market speaks, Intel and Microsoft might well find that Clover Trail is a dead end. µ