Unity to add native x86 support on Android

Intel is trying to carve itself a slice of the Android market, and that endeavor involves pushing for more native x86 apps. As part of that push, Intel announced this morning that it's teamed up with Unity Technologies, the folks behind the ubiquitous Unity game engine, to provide native support for x86-based Android platforms.

Here's the official scoop:

SANTA CLARA, Calif. and SEATTLE, Aug. 20, 2014 – Intel Corporation and Unity Technologies today announced a strategic collaboration to advance the development of Android*-based applications on Intel® architecture. The agreement accelerates Intel’s mobility push as millions of developers using the Unity development platform can now bring native Android games and other apps to Intel-based mobile devices. Unity adds support for Android across all of Intel’s current and future processors including both the Intel® Core™ and Intel® Atom™ families.

Unity will ensure Intel product enhancements, including both graphics and CPU performance improvements and features, will be seamlessly integrated into future releases of the Unity 4 and Unity 5 product lines. As Intel architecture continues to gain market segment share on mobile devices, these improvements will help ensure that the Unity developers' games run natively as well as look great and perform beautifully on Intel platforms.

In addition, developers using Unity can now easily add support for Intel architecture in their applications or produce native applications for Intel architecture only with minimal extra effort.

We gleaned a few more details yesterday in a phone call with Intel's Christos Georgiopoulos, who serves as both VP of the chipmaker's Software and Services Group and General Manager of its Developer Relations Division.

On the subject of performance, Georgiopoulos told us that, while Unity games already run "very well" on Intel-powered Android slates via the ARM translation layer, they're at a "little bit of a disadvantage" as far as startup times and frame rates go. Native titles could cut startup times by half, and depending on CPU utilization, they may improve frame rates "significantly."

The first native Unity titles should hit the Google Play store in the early part of the fourth quarter. A version of Unity with x86 support is already available for "for private distribution," Georgiopoulos said, and it will become "broadly available" to all developers in late Q3 or early Q4. More native releases will presumably follow.

Last, but not least, Georgiopoulos added that Intel is working with other gaming middleware vendors—"most" of them, in fact—on native x86 support. Intel is also undertaking similar efforts with companies like Adobe, whose middleware is used for non-gaming apps.

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