back to article Google TV transplants Android on Intel

Google TV is based on Android, the (kinda) open source Google operating system originally built for ARM-equipped cell phones. But the imminent television settop platform doesn't run on ARM. Google has ported Android to Intel's CE4100, an Atom-based system-on-a-chip designed specifically for consumer electronics devices. …


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  1. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD
    Thumb Down


    No. Just. No. Please.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      The Multimedia SoC is not bad actually

      I also had some doubts before I got my hands on an STB using it and running a devel build with a root password in hand.

      The Atom based SoC is actually extremely good. It is definitely on par or better than the usual STB suspects. Dunno about the A4 though. I have yet to get my hands on an STB + SDK based on it.

      However, I would have expected better reporting from the Reg. It is present in a number of next gen STBs from the usual suspects including some of the stuff that tends to "get on el Reg's tits".

      The SDK is also not bad and most importantly it runs Linux :)

  2. Raz

    I forgot my title at home

    Syncing audio and video on a PC is a problem? What, are we in 1993? Since when is Atom with it's lack of power the significant PC processor? Even Atoms (with Ion though) play 1080p movies.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Price could be a problem.

    $299 vs. $99.

    That's what people (and most reviewers) will see.

    Yes, Google TV does much more, supports 1080p, doesn't put you in the Apple prison. Yes, the media will be cheaper, available from multiple providers, and involve less lock-in.

    Still, $299 seems like a lot.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    >Android, the (kinda) open source Google operating system originally built for ARM-equipped cell phones

    Android is an Open Source software stack - nothing kinda about it and its considerably more than an operating system.

    Acer amongst others ported Android to Intel well over a year ago, with it being Open Source and running a Linux kernel doing so is not really that big of a deal. Nor is it any great shock that a device plugged into to the mains with power on tap strays from ARM for a cheaper solution.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Cheaper solution?!?

      Isn't the non-ARM "cheaper" box going to cost around $299; as opposed to the ARMy "expensive" Apple gadget costing around $100?

      Yeah, it's a bit crap that Apple isn't going the 1080p route - I thought Apple was supposed to be all "wow-and-then-some", but the way I see it, your cheaper solution costs three times more.

      1. Giles Jones Gold badge


        720p vs 1080p is all about download times. I believe the Apple TV streams instead of downloading files. So streaming 1080p would require a very fast connection.

        1. Lance 3

          720P vs 1080P

          Not true at all. It all depends on the compression level. You could have a 720P stream take more bandwidth than a 1080P with a higher compression level. You can also have a 720P look better than a 1080P stream as well. Compress 1080P too much and the quality is degraded.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Cheaper than ARM of similar capability

        >Apple gadget costing around $100?

        Yep, a far less capable device in any case, which is sold at a loss since the profits will come from the media not the hardware.

        1. studentrights


          The bill of goods is around $61. AppleTV is less about making money from the device or media, than bringing you in to Apple's eco-system of products. After all, you can stream from your PC (Mac) to AppleTV and control it with the Touch or iPhone.

          Apple TV Costs $63.95 to Build: iSuppli

          The idea that Apple makes and significant amount of money from selling media has been debunked a 100 times. It's not their model. Apple sells hardware. In this case AppleTV is a trojan into the hearts and minds of consumers.

          Apple: Billions of Songs, Billions of Apps, Not Much Profit

          You have no idea what you're talking about.

          1. The Other Steve

            iSuppli with my little ass

            iSuppli are (as usual) full of shit because :

            a.) No one except Foxconn knows how much they are paying to suppliers for bulk of those items, nor even how many they are buying on which to base a guess. Foxconn make an awful lot of tech shit, their potential volume leverage is huge.

            and b.) because even if anyone did know that, the parts that go into a product are not the only component of it's price.

            Quoting the iSuppli number as anything other than the fantasy it is rather suggests that, as you say, "You have no idea what you're talking about."

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward


            From your quoted article:

            >in iSuppli's example, represented by Analogix Semiconductor's ANX9836 HDMI transmitter and Digital Audio Interface device—costs $2.60.


            >Manufacturing costs add another $1.97 to the Apple TV's grand total.


            >The idea that Apple makes and significant amount of money from selling media has been debunked a 100 times.

            Indeed, as admirably demonstrated by the previous incarnations of their TV product - doesn't stop them trying though.

  5. heyrick Silver badge

    What a weirdo

    People "tolerate" audio and video out of sync on PCs and handhelds? WTF is this guy smoking. The only two place I "tolerate" sync issues is on certain lame satellite channels that can't get the transmission right, but then again I would tend to record such a film with my OSD, then use MPlayer to watch it, nudging the audio into its rightful place. This, I point out, with an Atom N270 in an eeePC (on my tummy, in bed, horrible posture but...). Oh? The other place? Badly dubbed Asian films, but those are a cliché in their own right!

  6. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge


    Agreed with Raz. I've NEVER EVER had audio sync problems. With mplayer, things stay perfectly synced, and an AthlonXP with NO hardware assistance can play 720p and some 1080p videos with no frame drop. With frame drop, it'll do 1080p at about 20fps. With hardware assistance? Honestly, "even" an Atom? You could play 1080p on a Pentium 2 -- the decoder does all the work.

    Regarding this platform -- I think ARM is a better CPU than Atom. But... Android is all Linuxy and portable, it's not tied to any particular CPU (like Windows tied to x86, or WindowsCE tied to ARM) so porting Android to Intel was probably not too hard. For something like a set top box, having the goodies it needs integrated trumps having a better CPU. Probably a dual HD decoder (to play video), and 3D accelerator (if the GUI is blinged) will do most of the work; traditionally the CPU does audio decoding but the DSP could do that. That leaves very little for the CPU to do.

    To put things in perspective, the Tivo Series 1 used a 54mhz PowerPC with 16MB of RAM. Since it had a MPEG2 encoder & MPEG2 decoder, and some good enough video hardware, the CPU basically handled scheduling and the program guide. I never owned one but when I used my friend's it was not only acceptable but actually pretty snappy.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      @ Henry Wertz 1

      Agreed. There are various domestic devices which are perfectly fine performing their functions, but doing UI stuff makes them seem sluggish. Examples? Sky/freesat boxes that can do all sorts of things with the video but are lethargic when it comes to the EPG. Or how about lower-end MP3 players running on, basically a souped-up Z80 core (with 64K addressing space!) that are quite capable of 320kbit MP3s. This is all because the processor part only has to be "fast enough" instead of blistering as custom dedicated hardware does the grunt work, not the processor.

      It is for this reason I am not sure it actually *matters* whether the base processor is ARM or Intel. Are there alternative reasons? Is Google in talks with Intel to get VP8 decoding in silicon? How is ARM's Flash support? Time for some journalistic digging, I think!


      Bootnote: I am surprised all this hoo-hah about Android being ported to x86. I mentioned back in May that I'd seen a netbook computer in a local supermarket with stickers on it proudly proclaiming Windows 7 and Android dual-boot capabilities (Atom-based machine, no mention of ARM co-pro so I would have assumed x86 native).

      1. Volker Hett

        If ARM had to be compatible to Adobe Flash

        They better start development on a 32bit X86 CPU with included Windows.

        Adobe has problems enough to keep the Flashplayer running on that, if you exchange Windows against Linux it's getting bad enough, not to mention 64bit.

        With a fresh install of Win7 ultimate 64bit I just got a message that my platform is not supported and I had to install the 32bit IE8 so I could use youtube.

        1. TeeCee Gold badge


          You must have played with the options to get W7 *not* to install the 32bit IE8. It does so by default and it also won't let you make the 64-bit version the default browser with conventional weapons if it finds a 32 bit one* knocking around........yes, I wondered at that too. Maybe it'll let you do this if it's got no other option?

          Anyway. If you want it, you can get the beta 64-bit flash plugin from Adobe. It does work with YouBoob......

          *Hmm, that's got me thinking (and steaming waaay off topic). If one installs W7 *without* 32-bit IE8 and then adds 32-bit FF or Opera, does it take the same "don't allow the 64-bit one as the default" approach? How level is the playing field really these days? Yes, I am being evil there, but they started it......

    2. Nya

      Atom in this case is the best option

      Thats the thing though isn't it. ARM don't have anything (yet) with a dual integrated tuners, GPU and other stuff. The CE4100 might have an Atom in it, but it also has the rest of those things on chip. Thus, for this job is a much better package than any currently available ARM.

      While the Intel haters above may rant and whitter on about how the Atom isn't good enough. The fact is, it's the best there is on the market currently, and not using it would of been utterly stupid.

      On the other matter of the Logitech Revue v Apple TV. Simply the Logitech device can handle two 1080p channels at once, the Apple can't do one. The price is an issue as for once Apple's going for the bargain bin end of the market and using it's name as always to sell the device which is woefully crap and is nothing but made from the left over bin of Apples other consumer devices. The place where Google TV will win is integration. Sony and LG and others won't be about the box sales, they are all about buying that one TV with it all integrated in the same way why buy a Freeview box when most TV's now include it. You can do it, but with the TV doing it all out of the box it's going to become the default with it's manufacturer custom GUI on top, and wide range of Android/Google TV app's available it is the superior platform for all manufacturers to back. Is the Revue expensive? yes. Will others come out much cheaper, also definatly yes.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Big Brother is watching you

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't underestimate Atoms

    The Atom 330 dual core CPU when paired with Ion can form the basis for a decent media center system. For $299, however, you might as buy a NetTop like the Acer Revo with the aforementioned 330 processor and Windows 7. Audio video sync on PC is rare even without GPU assistance; the free and open PS3 Media Server is a great example of everything being done on the CPU.

    I do, however, like the idea of Android being used for more than smartphones.


    Dwarves and Midgets.

    ...and Atom is not such a bad platform once you rip away the special purpose video decoders.

    Sure it's not a fast CPU. Neither is ARM. Anyone whining about the performance of Atom as it relates to ARM is just a dwarf calling a midget shorty. They are both abominable and require outside help to be usable.


    Of course it was ported, it's Unix.

    There's no good reason for Android or any other Unix to be tied to one particular hardware platform. The whole point of Unix is so that such tight coupling is entirely unnecessary. Google TV should already be running on HTPCs and desktops of anyone that's interested (just like Hulu).

    1. Anonymous Coward

      re: Of course it was ported, it's Unix

      Spoken like a true armchair general who has never had to do it.

      Hint, getting the low level stuff like the memory management working properly is more than just a case of recompiling a bit of C, kid.

  11. killzone

    The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

    what's the betting that $300 == £300?

    I don't think so somehow.

    Think I'll stick with my two (soon to be three) shiny new Apple TV's. they arrived thursday, took approx two mins each to plug in and set up before they were streaming video. they work perfectly as advertised. they're simple enough to use that my [extremely] technologically challenged fiance and step-son could use them without me even telling them what to do.

    ++iTunes store recently introduced a price cut on films, now everything's £1 less than it used to be, so on average a new chart title is approx £4 cheaper than the DVD equivalent from <insert supermarket chain of your choice here>



    Missed the point on the pricing - Logitech kit is generally higher end and I would expect other cheaper boxes to come out that match more closely the apple price tag.

  13. Wang N Staines

    too bad...

    299 vs 99 ... hmmm leme think. Let me have that flake. Cheers.

  14. Jon Press


    Is more of an issue than perhaps people realise, particularly when streaming live/broadcast video. The only way to keep the audio and video in sync without dropping frames/samples is if you can make small adjustments to the local audio and video clocks to keep the playout in lockstep with the originating site.

    Whereas you *can* sometimes achieve this with PC hardware, PCs are usually running a display at an entirely different refresh frequency to the video source material and even if you can adjust the clock so that the ratio between the source frame rate and PC frame rate is fixed, it's unlikely to be fixed at 1 - so you have to duplicate some frames and maybe skip others so that the average frame rate is correct. This is noticeable, particularly on a large screen.

    Sync isn't only about keeping the sound in step with the actors' lips...

  15. dave 93

    Er, ARM isn't Apple, so why is this move 'Anti Apple'?

    I guess Google need to get Android/Chrome going on intel for the Consumer OS they plan on launching (for free, I should imagine). But I can't see the Anti Apple angle at all. Apple has to licence chip core designs from ARM, even if they do end up making the chips themselves. This is a re-run of the RISC vs CISC wars, and for 'do one thing well' boxes, RISC is probably a better bet, but remember that the heart of Mac OS X and iOS runs on both anyway.

    1. RichyS


      Apple were actually one of e original founders of ARM Holdings. Back when they needed chips for the Newton, they saw what Acorn were doing with the Acorn RISC Machine (ARM) and set up ARM (Advanced RISC Machines) Holdings with them and VLSI (I believe, may have to check that one).

      I'm not sure about te current ownership status, but ARM does not necessarily not equal Apple.

  16. jubtastic1

    Reads like PR puff

    What audio sync issues?

    iOS is basically 10.6 with a different windowmanager and touch frameworks, I'd bet money that the reason Apple went with ARM over intel is the $99 pricepoint, not because porting to Intel Is too much work.

    Considering these devices stream content and current networks are only just reliable with 720HD content (which also happens to be the most common resolution for HD streams), seems like a smart compromise.

    I'd also note you can buy three generations of ATV for the price of one GoogleTV, just sayin.

  17. Robert Forsyth

    XScale was Intel's ARM based SoC

    Intel had ARM?

    x86 is Intel's legacy, and also runs Windows. Linux and Mac OS X don't care so much.

    Audio Video Synchronization surely depends on the additional decoders and compensation applied in their drivers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I hadn't heard that name for ages, until this week when I was upgrading the firmware on my mouse (yes, really), and it backloaded a custom bootloader so that the onboard XScale could reflash the ROM.

      Gaming mice these days seem to have more power than some computers that I have used/owned.

  18. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Misc comments

    "720p vs 1080p is all about download times."

    Well, really the first-gen AppleTV listed 720p as a limit because that was the limit; even some higher-bitrate 720p content would not play on it. The G07300 was not really fast enough for 1080p, and since it did not support full H.264 acceleration, the GPU would help but the CPU would still bottleneck playing H.264 (apparently above 4mbps.) This is not a real criticism as such, it would have been a fair bit more expensive when it came out with 1080 H.264 capabilities.

    "I'd also note you can buy three generations of ATV for the price of one GoogleTV, just sayin."

    Well, not yet, since the second generation JUST came out 8-).

    I for one don't underestimate the Atom (I'd guess ARM is better but still) -- most of you've probably seen one running Windows. Atom does not support instruction reordering, so code not built for Atom (i.e. Windows and every single app you're running on Windows) will have loads of pipeline stalls and run horribly.. If you want to see how an Atom can REALLY perform, put Ubuntu Netbook Remix on there (since it's built for Atom.) Well, or Android if you can get a hold of this Android build for Atom 8-). My machine only runs at 1.33ghz, with a CPU gauge running I can see it works pretty hard from time to time, but it doesn't bog down on me.

  19. Matt Milford


    Up and AT THEM!

  20. Mikel

    Atom is a good chip

    This looks like good tech. It'll make your big TV a window into cloud services, maybe a video phone. The Atom is as good a chip for it as any.

    Hopefully Google will also use their technical wizardry on the network and storage end for reliable streaming. I'd like to see them sell movies (not rent them) for persistent local storage, but it will be a nuisance to get Hollywood to go along with that.

    We're almost there though.

  21. studentrights
    Jobs Horns


    New $5,000 Multimedia Computer System Downloads Real-Time TV Programs, Displays Them On Monitor,1618/?mobile=true

    Wow, a computer acting as my TV. Awesome, just awesome Google.

  22. The Other Steve
    Big Brother

    Security engine ? Snark!

    Can't wait for all that Open DRM to start turning up.

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