[Updated Aug 11] — The “Console OS” project to make Android 4.4 dual-boot on x86-based hardware has surpassed its Kickstarter goal, and has added Minnowboard Max SBC support.
On the eve of the conclusion of its successful Kickstarter funding campaign, project founder Christopher Price announced that the Atom E3800-based Minnowboard Max single board computer had been added to the project’s list of supported devices. This marks a broadening of the ambitious Android-on-x86 dual-boot fork, which initially appeared to be focused on consumer tablets, PCs, laptops, netbooks, and 2-in-1 devices. With support for the Minnowboard Max SBC, the scope widens significantly to include a wide range of DIY projects and non-consumer applications.
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“Early this morning we announced that Console OS Pro with Android Inside will support Minnowboard Max. For the first time, Minnowboard [Max] users will have a drop-in, fully-supported Android solution with all the drivers and system enablers that handle every functionality of the device, from optional multi-touch displays, to hardware-accelerated video playback, even HDCP and OpenGL ES 3,” wrote Price in an Aug. 10 announcement to the Minnowboard mail-list. “Soon you’ll be able to make the Android device of your dreams, and take it completely to market on your own. You can even send it to Google for Google Play certification,” he added.
What’s Console OS?
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
On June 12, Mobile Media Ventures 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, tablet, or other device, or can load from 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.
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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 from Console OS as installed will be Google Play, but Mobile Media Ventures is working on a Console OS app 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. In fact, in a July 23 update on its Kickstarter project page, the project added: “Much like CyanogenMod, you can install Google Play onto Console OS. Google lets CyanogenMod host Google Play APKs links on their support site for this reason. We’re 100% Android compatible, just like CyanogenMod. We just can’t do it for you.” However, the update added, “because we are 100% Android compatible, we do expect OEMs (device makers) to ship Console OS devices to Google for certification. The OEMs can then preload Google Play and ship Console OS + Google Play devices themselves. We’re going to help make that happen, too.”
At its initial launched on Kickstarter, Console OS was said to have already been successfully ported to 25 “iconic” devices, with plans for supporting Intel Atom Z3000 (“Bay Trail”) based tablets and most Intel 2-in-1 devices by the December ship date. Additionally, an OEM-ready version was planned for 2015 availability, in time for a new wave of Intel Core-M devices. Since the launch, additional devices have been announced, including a DISH Network DVR, BRIX Android TV devices, and most recently, the Minnowboard MAX single board computer.
Console OS demo
Console OS with Android Inside surpassed its $50,000 Kickstarter funding goal, raising $78,497 from 5,695 backers, who were offered 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.
(Originally posted on June 12 by Eric Brown; updated on Aug. 11 by Rick Lehrbaum.)