The talk about Android Netbooks has been mostly just that – talk – with the practical implementations limited and the commercially available products zero. But an innovative execution environment that allows Android Applications to run on Ubuntu could mean the first real “Android Netbook” isn’t an Android Netbook at all.
The environment, which apparently fools Android Applications into thinking they are running on a phone with patches for features like multiple windows and CPU idling, was shown at an Ubuntu Developer Conference in Barcelona, Spain.
It makes sense… at least on the surface and in the short-term. Ubuntu has already done the work of getting a Linux operating system running on a Netbook whereas Google’s Android hasn’t even begun to address this area. This particular execution environment compiles Android code to its own version of libc, mapping Android libraries to Ubuntu libraries in some places and spoofing them in others.
So why not Android alone in Netbooks? Leveraging Ubuntu could provide a quicker speed to market when all is said and done. And it might just be a better starting point:
Google’s platform is well-suited for phones and tablets but isn’t ready for netbooks yet. Intel’s Moblin project and Canonical’s Ubuntu Netbook Remix are better suited for such devices because they provide a more netbook-friendly user experience, support running existing desktop Linux software, and have better compatibility with Atom chips.
Android uses the Linux kernel, but it isn’t really a Linux platform. It offers its own totally unique environment that is built on Google’s custom Java runtime. There is no glide path for porting conventional desktop Linux applications to Android. Similarly, Java applications that are written for Android can’t run in regular Java virtual machine implementations or in standard Java ME environments. This makes Android a somewhat insular platform.
How would Google feel about someone taking their Operating System and using an entirely different OS Layer to process and filter the applications? Given the stance they’ve taken up to now, the only approach they can really take is cautious and guarded optimisim, saying they are behind the Open Source community and Android is free for all to do whatever they want. If they were to expound at all, I think they would explain that Google is best suited to move the project forward.
(pics from Michael Frey)
But if they’re really smart, they’ll highlight this development at Google IO and show developers all the awesome things being done with Android. And oh yeah… Google IO begins today… and boy oh boy are there a lot of possibilities.
Canonical is the commercial sponsor of Ubuntu.