Back from MWC
First, we want to thank everyone at Intel for letting us get such a large stage to introduce iConsole micro. Bringing the full Android TV platform to a device so small isn’t going to be easy, but we’re up for the challenge. We'll be sharing most of stash of unposed photos and videos over the next week, on social media.
Missing Socket Wrenches
Let's the the bad news out of the way first. We’re still waiting on the full tool chest from Intel to build for Android on Intel chips. We thought we had received it last month, but we discovered major tools missing from our payload, right before departing for Mobile World Congress.
Being the first startup to do anything means taking arrows. We’ve taken more than our fair share.
Keep in mind, no Intel device in the United States has Android 5.0 in production today. We’ve been making progress in the mean time pushing Console OS DR1, proving there’s demand for Android as a primary OS, that scales on up to Intel Core processors.
These tools just started to ship platform developers, and we’re coordinating with Intel to get what’s missing from our latest delivery. We hope to receive the remaining tools needed later this week. A good chunk of the Intel team is attending the Android Builder’s Summit, so that may slip into next week.
Part of the problem is something that we've had trouble explaining because of NDAs. In late 2014, Intel announced the Reference Design for Android program. As part of that realignment, all the tools to build Android devices on Lollipop, were restructured.
This restructuring grouped tools (and licensing) based on if you were building a reference design (like a standard Intel Atom tablet), or if you were doing something that required even more advanced tools (like, building iConsole micro). We fall into the latter category, obviously.
So, even if we had a tool chest to build with KitKat… we had to start all over requesting the same tools for Lollipop. Some of those tools became owned by different people, different teams... the path for startups on all that is really starting to come into focus, well, right now. In a toolchest analogy, we're missing a few key socket wrenches to adapt the kernel for unique hardware.
Add to that Android 5.0’s painful release cycle (on both ARM and x86) and you can how this can become painful for the first startup building Android innovations (like iConsole micro and Console OS) can pile up.
We are confident we're doing the right stuff, and moving the ball forward as fast as we can. If anything gets in the way, or we need your help, we’ll let you know. It's not time to put The Stig in a tank just yet. You're getting as fast a development update as we can share on this.
Nobody is getting rich here waiting for these tools, so rest assured, we’re working hard (without pay) to make this happen.
And yes, as soon as we get these missing bits of code, we should be able to begin building for devices with 32-bit firmware. Intel is providing the same technical assistance they would give to every other platform builder, and that includes training us on tools we're still waiting to be delivered.
Keeping on Track
In order to meet our original timetable to start open-sourcing major components of Console OS, we have to get the remaining "socket wrenches" that we need. So, we're giving everyone a head's up that we may have to bump that goal back by a few weeks.
While that process continues to play out, we will continue with our work to develop Pro features, implementing Console OS Pro as planned after we get to Lollipop. And, we’ll also work on getting some of those more ancillary/straggler perks out the door that haven’t shipped out yet.
You may have heard news about Google changing the security posture for Android 5.0. As you may have heard, a big change in Lollipop is that every Android device must now be encrypted - even on the very first boot.
What Google did late last month, was make encryption optional once again in Android. That means that platform builders (people like us) don’t have to automatically encrypt your Android install from the factory.
There are reasons why you might not want to encrypt. One big reason is performance. We're working hard to performance test (since, well, we have the time on our hands...), and we've only found a few devices that actually need encryption disabled. Most of these have very cheap eMMC storage platforms that just weren't built to handle the rigors of full disk encryption. We plan to offer builds that both encrypt by default (pursuant to AOSP recommendations). And, we'll also offer builds for devices that do not encrypt by default.
Keep in mind that even if we don’t enable encryption by default, that you can still turn it on manually inside Settings -> Security. There is no difference otherwise in the encryption protocol.
New Unreal Engine 4 Technology Demos for Backers
Finally, we know waiting for Lollipop is not fun. As we mentioned above, we’re doing everything we can on that front.
In the mean time, we’ve whipped up some great new tech demos optimized for Console OS DR1. And, we’re making them available initially just for Kickstarter backers.
If you're a Kickstarter backer, to download them, log in to account.consoleos.com and enjoy. To show you the potential of Console OS, we’ve also published ARM versions of the same tech demos, so you can install on your typical Android device with an ARM processor to compare to.
We'll be monitoring the performance of these early-access releases, and eventually share them with everyone in the coming weeks.