Intel outfits open-source Galileo computer with Quark chip, targets DIY crowd

To reach enthusiasts, Intel is partnering with Arduino

Intel's Galileo board with Quark chip

Intel's Galileo board with Quark chip

With its first computer based on the extremely low-power Quark processor, Intel is tapping into the 'maker' community to figure out ways the new chip could be best used.

The chip maker announced the Galileo computer -- which is a board without a case -- with the Intel Quark X1000 processor on Thursday. The board is targeted at the community of do-it-yourself enthusiasts who make computing devices ranging from robots and health monitors to home media centers and PCs.

The Galileo board should become widely available for under US$60 by the end of November, said Mike Bell, vice president and general manager of the New Devices Group at Intel.

Bell hopes the maker community will use the board to build prototypes and debug devices. The Galileo board will be open-source, and the schematics will be released over time so it can be replicated by individuals and companies.

Bell's New Devices Group is investigating business opportunities in the emerging markets of wearable devices and the "Internet of things." The chip maker launched the extremely low-power Quark processor for such devices last month.

"People want to be able to use our chips to do creative things," Bell said. "All of the coolest devices are coming from the maker community."

But at around $60, the Galileo will be more expensive than the popular Raspberry Pi, which is based on an ARM processor and sells for $25. The Raspberry Pi can also render 1080p graphics, which Intel's Galileo can't match.

Questions also remain on whether Intel's overtures will be accepted by the maker community, which embraces the open-source ethos of a community working together to tweak hardware designs. Intel has made a lot of contributions to the Linux OS, but has kept its hardware designs secret. Intel's efforts to reach out to the enthusiast community is recent; the company's first open-source PC went on sale in July.

Intel is committed long-term to the enthusiast community, Bell said.

Intel also announced a partnership with Arduino, which provides a software development environment for the Galileo motherboard. The enthusiast community has largely relied on Arduino microcontrollers and boards with ARM processors to create interactive computing devices.

The Galileo is equipped with a 32-bit Quark SoC X1000 CPU, which has a clock speed of 400MHz and is based on the x86 Pentium Instruction Set Architecture. The Galileo board supports Linux OS and the Arduino development environment. It also supports standard data transfer and networking interfaces such as PCI-Express, Ethernet and USB 2.0.

Intel has demonstrated its Quark chip running in eyewear and a medical patch to check for vitals. The company has also talked about the possibility of using the chip in personalized medicine, sensor devices and cars.

Intel hopes creating interactive computing devices with Galileo will be easy. Writing applications for the board is as simple as writing programs to standard microcontrollers with support for the Arduino development environment.

"Essentially it's transparent to the development," Bell said.

Intel is shipping out 50,000 Galileo boards for free to students at over 1,000 universities over the next 18 months.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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