Hi everyone, Christopher here. We want to give more regular reports, but at times, we have to hunker down and press on. We'll dip into a few reasons why - and some results, in today's pre-Google I/O update.
First, A Progress Report
As we've shown off over the past week (or two) we have overcome the biggest hurdles to getting Console OS to continue releasing - we're up and running on Lollipop!
To be clear, we have the Android kernel, bootloader, and graphics systems fully working on Lollipop. Our vendor partners have (re) committed to giving us drivers for audio, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and GPS.
That has been a major pain point with Android 5.0 - rest assured, we've been battling this on all fronts.
Vendors Deliver... In 5.1 Steps
As we've mentioned in the past, Android 5.0 hasn't been easy for anyone. It has been a major point of contention for the entire Android building community. My own Moto X, Google's flagship phone for 2013, still is not running Lollipop. It's still at Android 4.4, KitKat. We poured, our hearts, souls, and forsaked tens of thousands worth of salary to make Android 5.0 work.
Unfortunately, vendors did not deliver drivers for 5.0, and are forcing us to step up to Android 5.1 to deliver a working build that you all can use daily. We were informed of this decision from upstream hardware vendors after our last Kickstarter update.
The good news is, over 90% of the patches and adaptations that we tested, engineered, and validated for Android 5.0 on Intel, are already present and have been integrated into Android 5.1 (aka MR1, or Maintenance Release 1).
What's going to make Android 5.1 different? Primarily, vendors are delivering. Just this morning (at 4:36 AM Pacific - long day), we received the first payload of PC-compatible binary drivers for Android 5.1. We're starting work immediately on integrating those.
We know Google I/O is tomorrow. And a new version of Android is likely to be announced there. All public statements from Google have indicated it will be a considerable period of time before any major new version of Android ships. We are holding back any comments until we get the full news - we don't get any early access to those details.
What we can say is that Intel open-sourced the IA kernel for Android 5.1 last week. In the past five days, we've already migrated all our platform work to 5.1. And, we've already integrated and sent along the two or three show-stopping bugs that we now have to plow through. Please keep in mind that it may take weeks for us to fully adapt and integrate Android 5.1 - drivers and bootloader bugs have appeared that we have to squash, particularly on UEFI32. But, we got it working on Android 5.0, we're confidence we can release on 5.1.
If there was a single vendor shrugging us off, not cooperating, we'd let you all loose on them. Unfortunately, the downside to this way-too-drawn-out process is that we can't gripe and complain much in-between.
We haven't been able to grow as a company because of these perpetual delays upstream. But, as long as we're making progress, we just have to keep our heads down and keep working.
And, for what it's worth, Motorola had to skip Android 5.0 entirely too for most of its devices... and we're attempting things with Android that the big manufacturers don't even try. We may not beat Motorola to Android 5.1 on their full fleet of ARM, but we're at least holding our own with groundbreaking work on the x86 side.
An Update on Open Sourcing Console OS
We think we have the path for open-sourcing Console OS pretty well mapped out. Our driver vendor partners have been very open and cooperative with this process. No startup has ever tried to get Android up and running on a PC natively...
So while it has been slow... and frankly, painful... we have gotten more access and support than any past effort ever has. We can't thank enough all the chipset and hardware vendors out there for working with us, and keeping all this going. And, we can now provide our roadmap for open-sourcing Console OS, so that the community can build and help us grow.
Open-sourcing Console OS will come in three phases:
- First, the kernel and bootloader will go up. This will include device-specific mappings and adaptations (device targets) for all the Intel Atom devices we have built out.
- Next, and alongside this, we're going to revamp and relaunch our Forums and Wiki with a new emphasis on supporting developers and contributors, alongside users - in separate sections of each respective site. More importantly, we promise to put significant amounts of your Kickstarter dollars back into the community to encourage developers to contribute. Details of where this money will be allocated will become clear soon, but we are admirers of the Google Summer of Code technique of rewarding dedicated developers with targeted goals and code sprints.
- Finally, after we take in feedback from our developers and partners, we will offer a closed source overlay. This will start to overlay any private code that we can't open-source or is internal to Console development. For AOSP builders out there, this will work very similar to the Nexus Device Binaries that you find from Google.
We know that's the sticking point, and as we mentioned above, integrating and adapting MR1 will take a few weeks. That 10% we mentioned earlier is the tough part. We're optimistic June will be the month that this all comes together.
One thing we can confirm about timetables more definitively, we are staging Console OS with Android 5.1-based release code to be open-sourced jointly with posted downloads. Not just the kernel, but enough to get Android to come to life on dozens of new devices.
Finally, as you can imagine, no startup can live on $78,000 indefinitely. We've stuck to our word and not taken in a dime until Lollipop is out the door.
And, we feel we owe you backers more than we can push out... despite challenges from upstream we had no way of anticipating (like, having to rewrite our installation process from scratch because of a new Android release, that didn't exist until after our Kickstarter ended).
At the same time, we've always said we want Console OS Standard to be free. We've certainly had time to think on this one.
As a result, when Console OS releases resume, the source code will be free (of course), but our compiled builds of Console OS Standard will cost $10 USD. We expect they will be available both on flash drive, as well as via direct device install.
Of course, all Kickstarter backers will continue to get Console OS free for life. Nothing has changed there. And people will be able to build Console OS Standard and use it themselves for free, too.
But, only builds shipped (and sold) by Console will be able to take advantage of things like automatic updates from our servers, as well as our rigorous testing and optional code-signed bootloaders for added security through UEFI Secure Boot.
We hope this strikes a solid balance. We've gotten too many emails to count asking how people can support. Now, you can choose - you can contribute to the open-source community and build Console OS Standard for free, or you'll be able to purchase a secure and tested distribution with updates signed by our team.
Finally, thanks for hanging in there with us. We've poured our hearts and souls into keeping this going, despite several technical 2x4's to the head after our Kickstarter ended. Once people start using Console OS with Android in the real world - we can start leveraging your voice to help push the Android performance ceiling onward and upward... which has been our unphased goal since the beginning.