Google is working to bring Android closer to the Linux kernel in a move that could significantly speed up development time.
Android is arguably the biggest Linux-based operating system (OS) in existence, powering billions of devices the world over. Unfortunately, the OS is a far cry from the base Linux kernel, being forked several times before it gets to a user’s device. The first fork occurs when Google takes the Linux kernel to create the base Android kernel, and then again by each chip maker, and yet again by device manufacturers.
The end result of repeated forking is that it can take a significant amount of time for improvements, features and fixes to make their way from the top all the way to the end user.
According to Ars Technica, Google is working on an innovative solution to the problem, one that will only require a single fork from the Linux kernel. From that point forward, System on Chip (SoC) venders — Qualcomm, Samsung and others — and device manufactures will be able to use plugins to customize Android, rather than relying on additional kernel forks.
The end result will be a much shorter path from the original Linux kernel to end user devices. This will allow Google and its Android ecosystem partners to develop and release updates and patches much faster than the current fragmentation allows.
Fragmentation and delayed update cycles have been a major problem for Android since its inception. Unlike iOS, where the majority of users quickly migrate to the latest version, Android users are far more spread out over multiple versions of the OS. This poses a problem for Google, as well as the many third-party developers. Google’s efforts to address this are good news for developers and users alike.