New Year, New Update
We're Headed to IDF!
Our Commitment to Backers - During & After the Pivot
Thoughts on Chips
Post Soft Launch Update
We apologize for the repeated delays. As we'll explain, it's good news all around though for Console, Inc. - and for our backers!
First, Android on Intel - An Update
We've held a lot of meetings with Intel over the past few weeks. We had the same concerns that many have had lately about the state of Android on Intel.
While we can't answer all questions today, we can say that Intel has assured us, and we can in turn assure the community, that Intel remains committed to Android. There certainly have been, and certainly will still be, some bumps in the road along the way.
To recap the news that is public, Intel will skip Android support for its upcoming "Broxton" line of Intel Atom processors. But, the Intel Atom "Cherry Trail" processor fully supports the same I/O (including USB-C with USB 3.1, and even DisplayPort mode), and will be built on a long-life basis over the next 24 months. We expect to keep making devices on Cherry Trail, until the successor to Broxton emerges.
Right now, we're sure the big question on your minds is about Nougat. Will Intel support Nougat on their chips? And in the FOSS community?
We can't answer specific questions on that today, other than to say some Intel Atom chips will be supported by Nougat. The Google Nexus Player, for example, which is powered by an Intel Atom "Moorefield" processor, will be upgraded to Nougat.
But, it is true, Intel is temporarily pulling back Android support. They've been up-front with the media, and with us, about that. That means a lot of Android devices may not see Nougat. We're trying to make sure that the devices that we're building, that depend on Nougat, will make the cut.
Intel has shared with us their timetable, and we in turn are working with multiple partners in the Intel ecosystem to make sure that Intel's support of Android strategically aligns with all the goals of both the IoT community, as well as companies like ours that are still committed to making great Android mobile devices with Intel processors.
To this end, we have started to take Console OS temporarily offline. We still hope to keep to our current plan of shipping a FOSS-friendly, stable Marshmallow release later this summer. We won't be able to decide about the future of Console OS beyond that, until after Nougat's source code is publicly available (and despite some broadly-held misconceptions, the source code for future Android releases is not fully posted, until after the final release is pushed out the door by Google).
And, consistent with our last update, we will offer backers multiple options as we pivot to focusing on hardware. If we decide to stop making Console OS, we'll offer you the chance to request a refund - or something better, your call.
Console Developer Rewards - It floats!
A famous David Letterman sketch was "Will it Float?" - where David Letterman out of the blue, would drop objects into water, and see if they sink, or swim.
When Intel pulled back on Intel support for Android, we weren't sure if it was the end. So, we held off on Console Developer Rewards. To recap, it's our initiative that funds FOSS developers in the community, to squash bugs and build out features on a bounty basis.
Our first full round was rolled out last month, along with a new open-source project called the OpenHU Project. A key developer, Mike Reid, tragically passed away, and we were working with him on his Android projects. One of them was very key to an upcoming device that we are well into developing. We were in contact with Mike up to the day he went to hospital, and tragically, he died suddenly.
As the story goes, right after he passed away, Google beamed down a GMS update that broke his hard work. So, we put up a $10,000 bounty to fix it. One developer, Emil Borconi, answered the call. And while Emil decided to decline the reward, we're planning on making a sizeable donation to Emil's continuation project, and we also plan to roll up / wind down the OpenHU project into that effort.
We didn't share any of this in an update previously, because we didn't feel it was worth sharing without some conclusions. In memory of Mike Reid, we've kept going, and the product that we showed him before he passed away, built atop his FOSS contributions, is something we're excited to be announcing in the near future.
This first cycle of Console Developer Rewards was a great learning experience. It showed that small amounts of money can galvanize communities, and bring attention to underserved FOSS projects. In other words, Console Developer Rewards definitely floats.
After our summer announcements, we hope to roll out a new round, and with Intel's commitments, assuming we can keep building Console OS, we expect to focus on Android-x86 in the next wave. Yep, that means rewarding Android-x86.org developers, with cash, for their hard work.
Onward to IDF
Originally, our plan was to unveil our next wave of announcements this week. But, at the last minute, Intel graciously decided to offer us a kiosk at the Intel Developer Forum, kicking off August 16th.
So, we're going to align our announcements closer to that date. But this is great news for us. Actually, it's the first time we've ever exhibited at an Intel Developer Forum. It's one small way that Intel is demonstrating a commitment to Android.
A lot of startups follow the "fail fast" methodology. As we enter year two of this Kickstarter, we certainly have defied that model.
It has been an interesting, challenging, painful, fun, and stressful two years.
So, kicking off this second year - we're going to echo our last update's promise, because it's an important one. We'll do what it takes to do right by all of you, even if it means refunding those that think we haven't done enough, despite the pullback in silicon support. We wouldn't be here without you.
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.