For backers only. If you're a backer of this project, please log in to read this post.
First, thank you to everyone that has tried the soft relaunch of Console OS. We appreciate the feedback, and it’s going into what we consider the hard launch.
Since launching, we’ve revamped nearly every page on our Wiki. Before we get to Console OS itself, we wanted to point that out so you can benefit from the updated documentation. Furthermore, we're going to begin going over our entire web presence and revising - making it easier to obtain Console OS and spread the word.
Extending Lollipop, Assimilating Remix OS
In our last release, we asked people what they wanted us to do - race to Marshmallow or focus on Lollipop. This time around, the feedback we got was substantially different… people said we should focus on Lollipop. Since we a stable bake of Lollipop already, most people said we should keep a good thing going.
Sticking with Lollipop makes sense for several reasons. One, it is by far the most used version of Android today. Most developers target it first, and all other versions of Android second. Two, it's the first release of the Android Runtime in final form. Future versions of Android (both Marshmallow and Android N) have to stay tied to it, much more than older Dalvik-based versions of Android (Android 1.0 - 4.4.4).
While some were critical of our decision to fork Android-x86, we’re proud of it. We are delivering on our commitment to keep Console OS alive in the wake of Android-IA for PC being discontinued.
On a related note, we’re happy to report that our competitors at Jide has recently begun complying with the GNU GPL.
During that whole time, we complied with the GNU General Public License, and Jide’s Remix OS did not. There’s no question on that. We still can’t find their repository for source code related to Jide’s Remix Mini, either, so we can’t say right now that they are in full compliance with the GPL.
One thing that we can do, however, is continue to be the corporate force for good that we’ve always intended to. So starting next week, we’ll begin a code audit that will infuse open-source code from Remix OS, into Console OS. Our GitHub repository will refresh with that, following the completion of that code audit... the whole process will take a couple of weeks.
By doing so, we’re carving out an entirely new space in Android for PC, as the member of the community that is fully open-source, with commercial components. Kinda like some popular Android distribution for phones…
The benefit to this, is that you get the best of all worlds with Console OS. You get the stability of a corporate-managed Android kernel for PC, with the security of knowing every line of our source code can be vetted (and you can build it yourself). You can’t do that with Remix OS, but with Console OS, you’ll still benefit from improvements they are required to release to the community.
On Windows, Linux, and Astoria
Last week you may have heard that Microsoft has announced something that we have to admit, is pretty darn cool: Windows 10 will soon allow you to run select Linux applications. Without virtualization of any kind.
We hate to pour ice water on what may be running wild in your mind, but it’s not exactly the game-changer it sounds.
For years, people have been running Linux and Linux-recompiled apps inside Windows. Apps like Cygwin have even allowed you to compile Linux applications - using Linux apps - from inside Windows. To understand what Microsoft is doing, you need an understanding of what makes up a Linux distribution.
The Linux kernel is all that’s needed to run basic Linux apps. Even web serving apps, databases, etc, pretty much typically run with the kernel, and some dependencies that (typically) also only require a working Linux kernel. To run a traditional Linux desktop (GUI, etc), you need things like an X-Windows interface, graphics drivers, and other subsystems. Each on their own may work with Linux, but require finely-tuned dependencies, all that talk to one-another.
This, is where Microsoft apparently failed. The work being launched today appears to track back to Project Astoria, where Microsoft planned to allow Android apps to natively run on Windows 10 Mobile. Getting important things like the Android Runtime (ARC), NDK, SurfaceFlinger, and a lot (lot) more to work together, inside of a Windows kernel, is even harder than getting Android apps to run inside Chrome OS… which it too, didn’t pan out too well.
Recently Microsoft inferred that Project Astoria wasn’t going to happen. The Windows Subsystem for Linux appears to be the functional survivor of that project, but an Android Runtime it most certainly is not.
So yes, you can now run command-line tools (as native Linux apps), without virtualization of any kind. That’s awesome and cool. But that was the easy part, and that is where Microsoft stopped. We’re sure some enterprising open-source hackers will create an alternate graphics system, and even a working Linux desktop… but it doesn’t change our mission statement.
To recap, our mission statement is native Android apps work best in cutting-edge, high performance Android devices… which run Android. Nothing last week dents our competitive advantages.
As we mentioned in our last update (April Fools day jokes aside), Console OS has become a long-tail play. We can't really generate revenue off of it until Android N settles in, and Google clearly defines where it will play in the Android-on-PC space. The PC makers (OEMs) are waiting, and we have to wait too.
As a result, and as we explained in our last update, we're pivoting back to hardware. Real devices that you won't have to back on Kickstarter to buy. In fact, your credit card won't be charged until some industrious individual in China is building a production version of your device. And we promise the devices we make will be both unique, and compelling.
While we won't be doing a crowdfunding campaign for that upcoming project, we do promise to reward our loyal backers with a special offer related to it when it launches.
Overall, work continues on several other fronts. We hope to have an update soon on physical perks, and we just began photography for our upcoming product. It's a new space for us, one we're revving up to be playing in. We hope to announce it some time within the next month.
Today we're announcing a new add-on that builds atop Microsoft's announcement earlier this week that command-line Linux app support is coming to Windows.
We're bringing the same suite of tools from the iOS world, starting with Swift apps! The Windows Subsystem for Swift will parallel the Windows Linux subsystem this summer.
Just like their Linux support, our Windows kernel add-on will allow you to run Swift-based iOS apps inside the Windows command line!
Just like the Windows Subsystem for Linux introduced this week - it doesn't actually run anything an ordinary consumer would want to run or use. But it's great at Hello World apps from the command line!
By making Swift-based iOS command-line apps binary compatible with Windows, we have pulled off something amazing. We've shown that iOS command line apps can run perfectly in Windows, just like basic command line apps for Linux.
We know you may have questions, like if we plan to support GUI apps from iOS. Frankly, that's just not our focus. We think people will enjoy running basic apps that already work better in a VM, from inside our cmd.exe-driven shell.
That's progress for the iOS platform, it's progress for Windows, and we're just happy to play our small part in demonstrating how that progress is progressing.
Our next steps will be to integrate the iAds framework, so people can enjoy monetizing iOS command line apps inside Windows. We won't charge any fees to use it, but Apple will have to approve your command line app to get it to be sold on the command line version of the App Store.
Unfortunately, even command-line iOS apps still are subject to Apple's walled garden.
We can't solve all the problems with the iOS ecosystem, but getting parity with Windows's Linux app support, is enough for one day.
April Fools everyone… we figured this was a much more comical way of explaining why Windows running command-line Linux apps doesn’t change anything in our game plan for Console OS. More to come shortly!
Hi all, it's time for an update!
First, in case you haven't been glued to our comment wall, we started posting Console OS Lollipop a couple or so weeks back. You can log in and download it right now, if you're a Kickstarter backer.
It's important to note that Console OS Lollipop, is a complete reboot of the project. Under our new path forward, we are forking the Android-x86 source code, and delivering a free, open-source software alternative to rival closed-source distributions that have followed in our footsteps.
And, we've open-sourced the full stack... something that some of our competitors, using the same kernel have not done.
What to Expect from Lollipop
Our favorite new feature, is the Console OS Express releases. These are, by far, the easiest-to-install distributions of the Android operating system yet. Just copy to a FAT-formatted flash drive, and reboot off of it. That's it!
Unlike other "live" distributions, there's no additional work required. You have a portable, and fully writable, installation of Android for your PC. It takes more bandwidth on our end, but we think it's well worth it.
Some PCs may need UEFI Secure Boot disabled, particularly those that shipped with Windows. And, the same general hardware support requirements apply - which is that Intel-clean systems work best.
We do hope to begin code-signing Console OS for UEFI Secure Boot in the near future, which will remove that step.
NVIDIA and AMD systems, however, remain not supported. We welcome the statements that AMD and NVIDIA have made over the past year, committing to supporting the very features that we need from their open-source driver stacks. But, they just haven't matured enough to take on Android. We hope to continue our ongoing dialogue with AMD on this subject, and start a new one with NVIDIA.
The general public will get access to Console OS Lollipop just one short week from today. We expect to have an updated release available around then - one that will fix a couple key bugs, and add a couple key features. As promised in the original Kickstarter campaign, we'll continue to tap Kickstarter backers as the first wave of early access testers.
We have more work to do. Some things like the loss of Android-IA for PC were simply unforeseeable, and unavoidable. But, we can do better.
One area that we didn't hit the mark on was Console Developer Rewards. We're sorry for that - and we're going to outline what we're doing to make it right. We met our self-imposted timetable to post terms, but we didn't give people enough time for feedback, and to properly inform the projects we plan to support.
While we're setting up Console.com.co/devrewards - you can read the terms under the original update. Fortunately, the feedback we've gotten is pretty positive. We have 2-in-1's, Core i5 build servers, and even Compute Sticks ready to give away in our first month.
We're moving back the first month of Console Developer Rewards to March 21, a week from today. This will give us time to have everything in-place and do it correctly.
Also, on physical goods - shipping Console OS Lollipop is an important next step. As soon as we heard that Android-IA for PC was on troubled waters, we announced we were delaying the shipment of physical goods. Frankly, until we shipped Lollipop - we would rather have refunded people for the physical goods, than ship a laptop sticker for something that didn't pan out.
Now that Console OS is back in action, we're going to start providing regular updates. Some things like the most-major perks will ship rather immediately. Laptop skins, will take the next month or so, as we have to re-select vendors and get proofs, approve them, and then take on the logistics of shipping them. We only have a few hundred physical goods remaining from the campaign, but we're going to ship each and every one of them!
Finally, we are working on the about box, and integrating backers names into the credits there. More on that will come in a future update as well.
What's Next (for Console OS)
We're at another fork in the road... some pun intended. Let's chat about that for a minute.
It's an exciting time for Android on PC. With Android N announced, people can see why we are positioning ourselves as being the commercial Pure Android solution for PCs... Android is growing up to the PC, much as we anticipated!
With multi-window, Vulkan console-grade graphics, and a plethora of keyboard-and-mouse enhancements... we're really excited about Android N.
But, with that excitement, comes challenges. Specifically, PC manufacturers (OEMs, as we call them), aren't very hip to the notion of embracing a non-Google solution for Android today. Simply put, they've been told to wait - for Google. It's hard to argue with a juggernaut like that, particularly now that Android N is in the developer preview phase.
So, we won't. We'll address what we're doing to make money in the next section.
Our focus will be on setting up Marshmallow on our GitHub, incorporating the Android-x86 kernel, while at the same time, expanding the commercial and non-FOSS feature set to add one feature at a time. Supporting new AOSP releases, faster, will be our first goal - consistent with the feedback you raised in Hardware Voting.
Work for that will be well under way, by month's end. Also, we are working hard to integrate the per-device builds that we started on GitHub, utilizing per-device DPI calibrations and other features in the kernel. In English - there will be one build of Console OS for you to download, for all devices.
What's Next (for Console, Inc.)
We're still committed to Console OS. But we have to be realistic, with OEMs told to wait for Google, we aren't going to grow as a company barking up that tree. Not right now, at least.
We're confident than as Google-blessed Android PCs emerge, and replace Chrome OS, that Console OS will continue to do what we promised in our Risks outline, and that is to evolve the feature set, and roll with the punches.
Until then, we've been focused on two compelling new products. Unfortunately, our first push to make that happen, iConsole micro, just didn't get the industry support we were hoping to. Silicon makers were unwilling to collaborate with us on porting key Android drivers, and software support, to make that a retail-packaged offering.
We've learned from that, however. The experience has made us more fiercely independent.
Over the past year, we've been putting into place new hardware - truly disruptive hardware that does not require backers to invest money up front... nor does it require the blessing of chipmakers. We're pretty optimistic about what we've been building. And, as we pivot to devices as our mainstay, we think we can continue to push the limits of Android in a sustainable manner.