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Intel Says Clover Trail Atom CPU Won't Work With Linux 434

girlmad tips this news from the Inquirer: "Intel's Clover Trail Atom processor can be seen in various non-descript 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.' 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."
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Intel Says Clover Trail Atom CPU Won't Work With Linux

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 14, 2012 @08:52AM (#41333523)

    Chips aren't exactly designed to "run Linux" or any other OS. It's Linux that supports CPUs.. NOT the other way around.

    All this means, is that Intel doesn't want to help. It does not mean it won't run Linux. Linux always finds a way to work.

  • Qui Bono? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Simon Brooke ( 45012 ) <> on Friday September 14, 2012 @08:53AM (#41333527) Homepage Journal

    I can't see what possible benefit it is to Intel to deliberately limit the market for their processors. Unless they are doing this for Microsoft's benefit, in which case, surely, there are anti-trust implications?

    • They may see it as a benefit to not bother helping port Linux because their Atom guys are too busy with Windows 8.
    • Another post about anti-trust? Does Intel have a monopoly on tablet processors? Do they control the tablet processor market? The answer isn't just no. It's an emphatic no.
    • could simply be to let MS get a time lead over linux. that could be all it is.

      maybe it takes 6mos to get linux kernel, devices and i/o working. that's a full 6mos that MS can brag and sell their new hot hardware and get at least some people to buy that might not otherwise do so.

      maybe its 3mos. who knows. but its a time lead. and that, alone, could be enough for MS to be happy.

      if you are ok waiting a bit, linux does seem to get people to port this and that and eventually enough stuff works that its now

    • Re:Qui Bono? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by NoNonAlphaCharsHere ( 2201864 ) on Friday September 14, 2012 @09:07AM (#41333681)
      No, It's just another case of Intel trying to steer the market in a certain (advantageous to Intel) direction. And the "cannot run" is a red herring, the real issue is "will not support"; and it's not so much "Linux" as "Android" that'll be lacking that support.
    • Two reasons:
      1. If Intel can use this processor to reestablish the Windows-Intel monopoly, then it will be a great move for Intel. This may be an attempt for Intel to throw a bone to Microsoft.
      2. These processors might be very competitive in terms of processing power / watt. Intel may want to protect their Xeon server processor revenues. A Beosulf cluster of these processors may have a formidable amount of processing power.

  • by Dyinobal ( 1427207 ) on Friday September 14, 2012 @08:57AM (#41333559)
    If there is one thing life has taught me it is that anything can run Linux. All intel has done now is simply issued a challenge which my guess is won't take long for some skilled hardware hacker.
  • The expression "won't work with Linux" can usually be translated as "don't know if it works with Linux and we would not support it if we did".

    I first met it with OS/2 rather than Linux when I was using internet banking in its early days. I rang the bank Help Desk (about a technical matter not a financial one) and it came out that I was on OS/2. "But Sir" they said "it doesn't run on OS/2, you have to use Windows!" .... "But it is running in front of me now" I said.

    They were so shocked, as if I were
  • by Jahava ( 946858 ) on Friday September 14, 2012 @09:01AM (#41333587)

    So, as an aside, isn't the entire point of a tech aggregator to provide a technical summary? Not just copy and paste the article's summary... anyway...


    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.

    In other words, Intel has added new capabilities to Clover Trail that allow enhanced power management, and Linux doesn't currently support it. Anyone who thinks that this will continue to be the case for much longer is a moron, especially if Intel continues to release its architecture datasheets, which we have no reason to think that they won't.

    The article really says: It can't run Linux because there's no support for it in Linux, and there's no support for it because it's literally brand-new.

    • by pmontra ( 738736 ) on Friday September 14, 2012 @09:09AM (#41333709) Homepage
      I hope so (for them) because "it can't run Linux" means "no Android devices with our chip". That's a huge market to leave to the competition.
      • I hope so (for them) because "it can't run Linux" means "no Android devices with our chip". That's a huge market to leave to the competition.

        Quick, what is the total global sales volume for FY2011 for devices with x86-compatible processors which run Android?

        • by pmontra ( 738736 )
          Pretty small :-) but after this decision the market share for x86-compatible Android tablets will be the same in 2013. What I said to be huge is the total Android market. Almost no share of the pie for Intel. If they're doing it they're convinced that it can be good for them but I bet ARM&Co are happy too.
    • by Truekaiser ( 724672 ) on Friday September 14, 2012 @09:13AM (#41333749)

      They stated this is a windows 8 only chip. So they won't release specs for other operating systems to use this. Also since windows 8 'require's' the uefi secure boot option, how much do you want to bet intel made Clover trail boards 'won't' support either disabling it nor adding your own keys?

      This won't stop linux dev's. Saying something can't work is a challenge to some of them. it's just intel won't provide patches for the in kernal systems to get it running, they might even go as far as to stop such patches being added if they actually 'did' make an agreement with microsoft to make this a 'windows 8 only' chip.

      • by PCK ( 4192 )

        This definitely has something to do with Microsoft. Remember all those Netbooks running Linux? They would n't want that happening again, especially now that Microsoft want to be like Apple in the table space. Maybe the WinTel allience is n't dead afterall.

    • by crazyjj ( 2598719 ) * on Friday September 14, 2012 @09:15AM (#41333769)

      Bringing reason into a discussion about Windows vs. Linux *AND* actually reading the article?!?!

      Sir, I demand you surrender your Slashdot membership card!

    • by unixisc ( 2429386 ) on Friday September 14, 2012 @09:47AM (#41334109)

      In that case, the article summary was currect. Yeah, Clover Trail is an x86 CPU, but it has certain new power management states that have to be software driven, presumably w/ new instructions. Since Linux currently doesn't make use of them (I'm assuming that Intel worked w/ MS to ensure that Windows 8 does), if a vendor puts Linux on top of it w/o customizing it for this CPU, then it won't take advantage of the power management techniques. As a result, such a tablet will gouge more power than it would running Windows 8, and that's why Intel currently doesn't want to support it.

      Once the next version of the Linux kernel - be it 3.5 or 3.6 - adds support for the Clover Trail instructions in its power management schemes, this CPU too will support Linux. The other possibility - Intel may be waiting for Android or Tizen to support this platform before it confirms that this CPU can run Linux.

    • In other words, Intel has added new capabilities to Clover Trail that allow enhanced power management, and Linux doesn't currently support it. Anyone who thinks that this will continue to be the case for much longer is a moron

      Oddly, Linux still doesn't seem to have proper power management support for my Athlon 64 L110 processor (mobile, 1.2GHz) which is now very fucking old.

  • by Alex Belits ( 437 ) * on Friday September 14, 2012 @09:15AM (#41333765) Homepage

    It is the first time ever that Intel announced direct hostility toward some piece of software -- I hope, it's just someone's fuckup and not a policy change.

    • by gaelfx ( 1111115 )

      Exactly. In my (relatively limited) experience, Intel's wireless chipsets work much better with Linux than other manufacturer's, and though I could be wrong, I'm pretty sure it's because they actually develop their Linux drivers alongside their Windows drivers. If they changed this policy, then I seriously fret for the state of wireless support in Linux. I, too, sincerely hope it's someone's fuckup.

      • Not only that, Intel actually originally developed Meego b'cos Windows 7 did not support the Atom. Now of course, it's Tizen.

        I think that seeing Microsoft porting Windows 8 to ARM, they decided to come out w/ a CPU that rivals it in power management, and got Microsoft to support this. They may be targeting their initial production of this CPU @ Windows RT tablets & phones, in which case, Linux may be on the backburner. Once the Linux kernel supports it, then they can make it one of the target platfo

  • Computer, especially smartphone and tablet are now a cash cow business. The happy few that have the biggest money will do anything to stop the flow of money to them. All of us will have a single choice: to pay them no matter what. Look like how the giant petrol companies are doing business.

  • by G3ckoG33k ( 647276 ) on Friday September 14, 2012 @09:27AM (#41333873)

    Please, notify the European Commission.

    I am positively sure they will not like this.

    (I don't have any appropriate channels, otherwise I would have done it)

  • how, in a media swamped with Apple mania, do you get attention for a processor launch?

  • Provided the linux kernel is used in android and that intel tries so much to enter the android market, I highly doubt that their new power efficient chip wont work with linux. It would mean they won't ship it in android as well.

  • Sounds like BS (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JDG1980 ( 2438906 ) on Friday September 14, 2012 @09:38AM (#41333995)

    Is there any source for this statement besides The Inquirer? They're basically a tech tabloid and have gotten a lot of things wrong (or overly sensationalized) in the past. I checked Anandtech and Tom's Hardware, both of which covered Intel's presentations this week. No mention of this. I did a Google search for "clover trail" "Windows 8 chip" and found ONLY the Inquirer article and other articles and blog posts directly quoting and linking to it. No reliable third-party tech sites saying the same thing.

    This doesn't make sense in terms of Intel's overall philosophy. They have always been good about Linux support for nearly everything else – they don't want to get themselves tied in too closely with Microsoft, for fear that this would reduce their leverage.

    I think this story is bullshit. A generous interpretation would be that the reporter heard that the chip ran Windows 8 and that Linux *currently* did not have the necessary support for the "new P-states and C-states" in Clover Trail, and misinterpreted that as saying that only Windows 8 will ever be officially supported. A less generous interpretation is that the Inquirer knowingly made up this crap to get more page hits. In any case, I expect Intel to make their actual position clear soon enough, now that this story seems to have gone viral.

    • Re:Sounds like BS (Score:4, Informative)

      by Guy Harris ( 3803 ) <> on Friday September 14, 2012 @12:26PM (#41335975)

      I did a Google search for "clover trail" "Windows 8 chip" and found ONLY the Inquirer article and other articles and blog posts directly quoting and linking to it.

      I did a Google search for

      "clover trail" linux

      and found a press release from June 2012 [] that said "The company has 20 design wins based on the forthcoming 32nm Intel® Atom SoC, codenamed “Clover Trail,” and designed for Microsoft* Windows* 8."

      "Designed for Microsoft Windows 8" could mean anything from "we designed it to be incapable of running anything other than Windows 8" to "our design target was Windows 8 tablets but if it runs other OSes that'd be just fine with us (but maybe that's unlikely because, for example, Android for tablets is mainly being used on ARM so maybe no manufacturer will care about using it to run anything else)" to "we designed it so that it would run Windows 8 better than earlier designs".

    • Re:Sounds like BS (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Guy Harris ( 3803 ) <> on Friday September 14, 2012 @01:49PM (#41337265)

      Is there any source for this statement besides The Inquirer?

      Yes [].

      Interestingly, the Ars Technical piece in question doesn't directly quote anybody from Intel saying Clover Trail “cannot run Linux”, they just say that the Inquirer reported that an Intel spokesperson at the Intel Developer Forum made that statement. What the Ars Technica piece reports from IDF is

      On September 11, Intel Architecture Group Executive Vice President David Perlmutter told IDF attendees in his keynote that the Clover Trail system-on-a-chip architecture was designed specifically for Windows 8 tablets and “convertibles.” In effect, Clover Trail is Intel’s effort to provide a full Windows 8 experience (including enterprise features missing from Windows RT) on devices competitive with ARM-based Windows 8 tablets.

      To achieve that, Intel worked closely with Microsoft to instrument the chip to allow Windows 8 to control Clover Trail's advanced power management features, which support what Perlmutter called "always-on" functionality. It's that special sauce in Clover Trail that won't be supported for other operating systems, including Linux, likely in part because of Intel’s desire to keep those features close to the vest—and because of contractual obligations to Microsoft.

      so maybe 1) you can't run on Clover Trail without using the advanced power management features and 2) the documentation of those features won't be public (Intel have had documented-but-not-publicly-documented hardware features in the past), in which case Clover Trail won't be able to run Linux unless and until the features in question are reverse-engineered (and maybe there are Intel and/or Microsoft patents on those features to get in the way of doing that).

      Or maybe not. Perhaps, for example, the features aren't required, but Linux-on-Clover-Trail will run the battery down faster if it doesn't use them.

  • ...I've already got an AMD board that won't run Linux.

  • smart ploy! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nazsco ( 695026 )

    They tried building their own Linux distro. It sucked!

    They tried giving docs and nobody cared.

    They tried writing drivers themselves and again they sucked.

    So now they are double daring every developer saying win8 is technically better than anything they coded

    • Re:smart ploy! (Score:5, Informative)

      by retep ( 108840 ) on Friday September 14, 2012 @11:29AM (#41335239)

      They tried writing drivers themselves and again they sucked.

      Dead wrong. Intel drivers are excellent and I and many others have had great success with them. They also usually work quite closely with the kernel community as a whole to make sure things work as expected; that's why what this article is saying seems to out of character for Intel. For instance, try searching for "" [] in the git commit log. Lots of kernel developers are on Intel's payroll, including core people like Alan Cox [].

  • The chip embeds a new silicon technology that will recognize Linux by efficiency of code to be executed.
    If that'll be too much efficient, then the chip will melt itself.

  • There must be a special subsystem on the die that checks if the OS ID is linux-gnu and annihilates itself in a puff of smoke if it is so.

  • PowerVR SGX (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ssam ( 2723487 ) on Friday September 14, 2012 @10:50AM (#41334819)

    I think this mostly due to the PowerVR SGX graphics engine (remember the gma500 poulsbo). for the gma500 intel made a binary linux driver that did not impress anyone. I guess for clovertrail they are just not bothering with releasing a binary driver.

    So it might work fine as a CPU, but have no graphics acceleration. however for a tablet chip that cannot play video or composite a desktop in software, it might be effectively useless.

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun