Linux News Today: Exclusive Interview with Console OS CEO Regarding Ongoing Feud with Android-x86
Last week we published an article regarding the ongoing feud between the Android-x86 and Console OS projects, and it looks like there is an intense debate in the community. Since we already know what the Android-x86 leader thinks, we also had a talk with the CEO of Console OS Inc. to get his side of the story.
There are a lot of confused users in the community right now and we can’t really blame them for that. The discussions between the Android-x86 and Console OS projects have been going on for a long time, and on multiple channels, without any kind of resolution.
The situation is confusing, even for people like us who follow new products and discussions in the community. It’s hard to tell who’s right and who’s in the wrong, which means that it falls down to the user to determine that. It’s not an ideal situation, but it’s always better to have more information
You can check out our previous article, titled “Android-x86 Developer Says Console OS Is Stealing the Code, Warns Kickstarter Users of Scam,” and you’ll get a pretty good idea of what Chih-Wei Huang, the leader of the Android-x86, has to say.
Below there is an interview with the CEO of Console OS Inc, Christopher Price. He agreed to answer our questions and you’ll see that we didn’t hold back. It’s our hope that it will shed more light on this topic.
Softpedia: Before we get started with the more sensitive questions, please explain to us and our readers what Console OS stands for and what the aim of the project is. How do you envision people using it?
Christofer Price: Console OS with Android is our effort to bring Android to the PC as a client operating system. We debuted on Kickstarter in June 2014 and made our first releases atop Intel’s Android-IA (KitKat) kernel by the end of 2014.
Shortly after our first releases, Intel announced they were discontinuing Android-IA for PC hardware. We were the first startup to license that codebase. We had to go back to the drawing board, and we’re currently staging a reboot, rebasing atop the Android-x86 kernel.
(Android-IA lives on today as an IoT platform at 01.org – one we still utilize, but it no longer natively supports PC devices – a lot of our features and project plan, depended on that support).
Today we’re focused on making Console OS a success in open-source, taking the Android-x86 kernel in new directions. We’ve started offering per-device builds, in order to offer a more stable experience (a la Cyanogen).
More importantly, we’ve agreed with Intel to take the best parts of Android-IA (their optimized driver set, for example) and integrate it into our fork of Android-x86.
From there, we’re going to re-implement our original vision and feature set, providing a PC-friendly, fully open-source experience. Under our new project plan, every feature we add that is closed-source can be disabled, or swapped out with an open alternative whenever possible. For example, a user can disable our home screen and use Trebuchet (Cyanogen’s home screen). A developer can disable Intel’s private-code graphics drivers, and use Mesa open source drivers.
We want Android on the PC to be both desktop-friendly, and totally open-source, unlike some of our newer rivals.
When we do resume releases soon, you’ll be able to download an app, and install Console OS onto your PC or a flash drive – and get an Android experience finely tuned for your PC, PC Tablet, or 2-in-1.
Softpedia: The discussions between the Console OS and Android-X86 developers have been going on for some time, and on multiple forums. It’s getting difficult to keep track of everything. What’s the root of the problem, in your opinion?
Christofer Price: There are several layers, unfortunately. It began years ago, when we discovered some code that was pirated from corporations, had surfaced in Android-x86. We brought this to the attention of their lone administrator, Chih-Wei Huang, who was hostile to our attention to the matter.
Things went downhill from there. When Intel discontinued Android-IA for PC, Chih-Wei was angered by the fact we chose to fork code from his project. We tried to resolve matters with him, and our door is still open to doing that.
One of the things Console OS will do, is create a company and a foundation that is centered around working with corporate interests on the Android-x86 kernel. That’s something we feel is sorely missing today, and a major reason why big tech companies are unwilling to contribute.
To that end we announced Console Developer Rewards, our corporate initiative to sponsor Android on PC development – even outside of Console OS: http://console.com.co/coming-next-month-console-developer-rewards/
Indie developers that contribute code to Android on PC projects (even Android-x86) will be eligible for rewards through this program. We’re trying to make Console Developer Rewards as non-partisan as possible – we want it to spark companies to renew their focus in Android on the PC.
No Kickstarter funds will be used for Console Developer Rewards, industry sponsors are funding it completely.
Softpedia: You accused the leader of the Android-X86 project of asking money to review code commits. Do you still stand by that accusation?
Christofer Price: Yes. We stand by the statement we posted hours after Chih-Wei Huang’s rants in mid-December:
Unfortunately, many in the media didn’t cover that reply. It covers several topics, provides a detailed history, and also shows that this isn’t Chih-Wei Huang’s first salvo of attacks against our partners.
Android-x86.org has said anyone that even mentions our reply in a supportive manner will be banned on sight. So people who read his claims, are only seeing one side of the story.
Softpedia: Console OS has been delayed and you say that one of the main reasons for that delay is the fact that Intel dropped support for Android-IA. You’re now rebased on Android-X86. When do you expect to have a stable build?
Christofer Price: We’re doing builds daily on target devices. This controversy has slowed us down, more than some think – it takes time to meet with partners, get clearances to explain what happened and when (particularly on stuff like Android-IA for PC). I’d say it set us back by 30-45 days.
We don’t like to give dates certain, but Kickstarter backers should get builds over the next month – the public shortly after, based on feedback.
Softpedia: It’s still not clear whether Console OS is an open source project. Can you shed some light on this aspect?
Christofer Price: We’re not done yet pushing code to GitHub, but you can fork us on GitHub right now: https://github.com/iConsole/Console-OS
So yes, we are. Some components and drivers will be closed source, but this is typical of commercial FOSS distributions like Ubuntu and others.
This dovetails on your next question, but yes. Our goal is to be totally open source – and frankly, we see that as a key differentiator versus some of the newer rivals.
We don’t think people want to use an Android distribution today, particularly from elsewhere, that they cannot vet. There have been some bad outcomes to that in the past.
Softpedia: One of the accusations from the leader of the Android-X86 project was that you have yet to provide any kind of source code developed by your team, and that the current code available on GitHub for Console OS is actually just the Android-X86 fork with a couple of changes. How do you respond to this?
Christofer Price: Unfortunately, GitHub charges considerably to stage code in private. Had we know that forking Android-x86 would have been so controversial, we might have done that.
We’re still staging code, so the differentiation part is not complete.
Some of the differentiation, went up as part of our initial push – so it doesn’t trip the GitHub code-counters that some people rely on. If you dig into the source, you’ll see new drivers that haven’t ever been posted publicly – as well as per-device build targets… something new and innovative in the Android on PC space for Lollipop and Marshmallow.
We do ask that folks give us the change to put everything on GitHub, before making judgments about how much we’re doing in the community. That process has been slow, but we intentionally haven’t taken a dime from the community, since our Kickstarter ended.
Softpedia: Why aren’t there any kind of screenshots or videos with the new OS? The Kickstarter page only shows a few devices running some games.
Christofer Price: Over 300,000 people have downloaded Console OS KitKat. We have the bandwidth bills to prove it.
There are a lot of success stories there. We get emails weekly from people still using it as daily drivers on their Intel Core 2-in-1’s – because it is still the best bake of Android for those devices.
The loss of Android-IA for PC has buried that a bit. We lost a year. It would have been easy to quit – but we’re still going.
You can’t run screen cap software as easily on Android – so that explains some of the YouTube gap. Really the struggle we fight is showing tech company leadership that the demand for Android on PC is there. But that is changing as Google is clearly signaling interest in the space.
If anything good has come out of this controversy, it has sent a loud message that a lot of people want Android on the PC. It has raised awareness of our work, and hopefully, is trickling up to stakeholders at tech companies in the PC space. The demand is there, and Android has matured enough to be ready to deliver on it.
The future on Android for the PC is really what excites us. With technologies like Vulkan en route – Android will be able to do anything a traditional gaming console can do. Hence why we call it Console OS – we want Android to be a heavyweight in both the PC console, and the mainstream gaming console space too. Vulkan, Console OS, Android-IA, and other technologies will help speed that to happen this decade.
Softpedia: Some of the backers on Kickstarter are accusing Console OS of fraud and it looks like they are trying to build a class action lawsuit. Is that something that you should be worried about? Are you considering refunding Kickstarter users?
Christofer Price: We are not worried about that. We have met with Kickstarter – explained our project status, and they have no issues with us open on that regard.
We are regularly communicating with our Kickstarter backers daily. While some may be unhappy about our twists and turns, we noted (in the Risks section of our prospectus) that upstream changes to Android from Google and Intel could impact our work.
Well, it did – just in a much worse way than we had ever thought was likely to happen. Android-IA had been in development for years, and we got no confirmation that PC hardware support was pulled – until after our Kickstarter had ended, and the money already put into development.
Backers knew those risks when they backed us, and we’ve done our part to create a new path forward.
As to the Kickstarter terms, we are confident we are in compliance. If we quit development today, we’d issue pro-rated refunds… but we don’t foresee that. We’re very close to resuming releases.
All remaining perks will ship after we ship Console OS Lollipop. We didn’t feel right about shipping perks (mostly t-shirts and laptop stickers) before that because we would rather refund people for that stuff if we couldn’t pull that off.
And again, we are committed to making sure Console OS is always free going forward, in open source form, on GitHub.