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Forked Android build targets dual-boot x86 laptops, tablets

Jun 12, 2014  |  Eric Brown
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A “Console OS” Kickstarter project is building an Android 4.4 fork for Intel CPUs on everything from PCs to tablets, complete with a dual-boot option.

Intel is hoping to spur a new wave of dual-boot Android/Windows 2-and-1s and tablets with its Atom Z3000 and upcoming, newly announced Core M processors. So far, however, Android has yet to make much of dent in the PC market, either as a standalone or dual-boot OS.

Console OS logo

Now, Mobile Media Ventures has launched an apparently Intel-backed Kickstarter project for “Console OS with Android Inside,” a remastered, x86-optimized version of Android 4.4. Unlike Bluestacks or Andy, it’s not an emulator, but rather a “real, Intel-licensed, native Android that can really toggle with Windows on your PC” within 10 seconds, says the company. Designed for both multitouch touchscreens and mouse/keyboard control, Console OS can be installed directly on a PC, Ultrabook, 2-and-1, or tablet, or load off an external USB HDD.

The distribution will be available in a free version or a $20-per-year Pro version that adds more features and applications. Kickstarter funders, however can get the Pro for a one-time fee of $10, which includes free upgrades for life. Both products are expected to ship in December.

Console OS is based in part on the stack running on the company’s Intel Core processor based iConsole.TV Android media player device. However, iConsole.TV can be stripped down to a stock Android Open Source Project (AOSP) build while Console OS is built more or less from scratch. Console OS strictly adheres to the Android API stack, however, including Dalvik, Bionic, and ART, and RenderScript, says the company.

iConsole.TV developers edition

Still under development, the iConsole.TV device is billed as the fastest Android build ever. iConsole.TV offers an optional Linux desktop that can run Steam OS and other Linux applications. A Unit 00 Developer Kit introduced last year is sold out, but a new version will follow the Console OS release that will be able to run the distribution. It will be like a “Nexus to our Android,” says the company.

The Console OS, which appears to have been developed with investment support from Intel, is aiming for both OEM and consumer sales. It supports the UEFI Secure Boot and dm-verify technologies beloved of OEMs, but also claims to offer a five-minute installation process for consumers.

The firmware is primarily targeted at gamers looking for a “console-quality gaming experience” for Android games, as the company puts it. It currently runs OpenGL ES 3.1, but is expected to offer OpenGL 4.0 by mid 2015, which “will enable Console OS and Android to become a mainstream gaming platform,” says Mobile Media Ventures. Console OS is said to support Miracast, HDCP, HDMI mirroring, dual-display, 4K with DisplayPort, ARM NDK app compatibility, and native hardware-accelerated H.264 decoding.

The Console OS Pro version adds over 100 new features, along with 20 “killer premium features,” says the company. These are said to include:

  • WindowFlinger — true window manager for Android that can run multiple Android apps in windows, extending the free version’s ability to run two apps side-by-side
  • InstaSwitch — new hypervisor for toggling between native Android and native Windows, based on Xen-GT virtualization technology
  • Console Remote Access — remotely accesses Console OS device from any Android device
  • Native DVR support — supports ATSC, DVB, QAM/CableCARD, and DTCP-IP
  • Media serving — built-in UPnP and DLNA support
  • Console Files — new file manager
  • Console Maps Pro — premium “Maps with Enhanced Turn-by-Turn” application
  • Additional codecs and media playback support

One missing feature will be Google Play, but Mobile Media Ventures is working on a Console store with optimized apps. The company claims, however, that “un-modified Android apps typically work great — even with a keyboard and mouse!” The distro will also support app import from Google Play, as well as offer Amazon Appstore for Android.

Console OS is currently tested on 25 “iconic” devices, and by the December ship date it should also support Intel Atom “Bay Trail” tablets (Atom Z3000), as well as most Intel 2-in-1 devices, says the company. An OEM-ready version is scheduled for 2015, in time for a new wave of Intel Core-M devices.

Console OS demo

Further information

Console OS with Android Inside is open for Kickstarter funding, starting with a $10 Pro version for the first 10,000 funders, and $14.95 after that, with free upgrades for life. The distribution will ship by December, says Mobile Media Ventures. The commercial version will cost $20 per year, and a free version will also be available. More information may be found at the Console OS Kickstarter page, as well as the Console OS website. More on the related iConsole.TV device may be found at the iConsole.TV site.

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4 Responses to “Forked Android build targets dual-boot x86 laptops, tablets”

  1. Chris Sparks says:

    I don’t want to be able to do windows. I want a linux system or even a linux/android if I have to.

  2. Christopher Price says:

    You’ll be able to wipe Windows and go Console OS-only, if you want. It’s a bare-metal solution as much as it is a dual-OS solution.

    And really, long term, we want to scale Console OS with Android™ Inside so that most will be happy with Console OS solo on their tablets or PCs.

    As to dual-boot with Linux, we’re working on it. It’s more complicated, but we’ll get there.

    • Chris Sparks says:

      I am working an automotive project and I need speed of booting up and just the basic graphical capabilities. I don’t plan on doing games or spreadsheets, just my own apps developed from Qt.

  3. littlenoodles says:

    What you need to make this thing viable without dual-booting Windows is LibreOffice. Today’s desktop Linux is fully useable, and while it doesn’t have the wealth of apps that Windows has, for most users what it has is enough – and that’s because it has Libre. Between a good web browser, multimedia apps and a decent office suite (yes, with decent MSOffice compatibility), Linux is a perfectly viable primay desktop OS for many. Throw in VPN access and RDP, and the work from home set is covered too.

    But Android + Libre would ‘have it all’. That is, everything Linux has + apps and games + a decent free office suite. Whether that’s achieved by helping Libre port to Android – or by building some kind of wrapper that allows native Linux code to be easily ported – as long as the whole thing integrates smoothly, you’re golden.

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