Intel's progress into the Android ecosystem hasn't exactly been earth-shattering. The number of high-end and mid-range smartphones equipped with an ATOM CPU still number in the single digits, making the x86 architecture a fairly low priority for app developers. In addition, Intel's emulator images have always lacked support for the Google APIs, leaving developers without the ability to test common staples like Google Maps or push messaging. Fortunately, that issue was recently rectified with KitKat as Google and Intel have finally shipped an x86 system image with Google API support.
Ok, so testing Android apps with Google-specific features on an ATOM emulator probably doesn't sound terribly exciting, but there's a major upshot: developers can finally use HAXM without making sacrifices! If you're not familiar with Intel's Hardware Accelerated Execution Manager (HAXM), it's a small piece of software that enables the emulator to use the built-in virtualization and hardware acceleration features of most modern Intel processors. In other words, the unbearably slow Android emulator can be made fairly speedy.
HAXM has been around for a long time, but the lack of a system image with Google API support made it nearly unusable given the dependence many apps have on Google's services. Now it will be possible to speed up development and automated testing considerably.
If you're interested in setting up HAXM, take a look at Intel's instructions or one of the several tutorials on the subject. The process involves little more than running the installer package for your operating system and creating an Android Virtual Device (AVD) with the correct settings. Keep in mind, this will only work on Intel-based CPUs.
Enjoy the speed boost, folks!