Ubuntu developers are in Spain this week for the Ubuntu Developer Summit ahead of the Karmic Koala release later this year. One of the big new developments discussed is a new capability to run Google Android apps natively on an Ubuntu desktop. Ubuntu developer Michael Frey blogged about his own effort to get Android running on Ubuntu this week.
“I know that others have built Android for x86,” Frey wrote. ” After digging deeper I realized that this is not enough to make it “run” under Ubuntu. It turns out that Android uses it own version of libc and all binaries get linked against that.
This causes a problem when a libc already exists on your system.”
Yes Android has a Linux base so it’s not a crazy stretch (though it is some work) to get it to run on Linux. But does it really matter?
Remember that Android is a mobile operating system and it is geared for low power, low screen size handheld devices. Sure you can run little Android widgets on a Linux desktop and that might be kinda interesting, though if you’ve got full desktop power, or even full netbook power screen size (8 inches plus) an Android app isn’t necessarily as interesting as it is on a handheld device. But hey don’t get me wrong widgets are cool, but they have their place.
It’s also important to remember that having Android available on a desktop is not a ‘nice-to-have’ feature, but rather is a ‘must-have’ feature in my view. Apple’s iPhone runs on an emulator for Mac OS X which is likely where the majority of all iPhone apps have been developed. The iPhone itself is not a development tool but the emulator running on a desktop is. Mobile Java developers have had similar emulator available to them for years as well.
Same approach will work for Android, with desktop emulator, or running on a Linux distro like Ubuntu – Android will get access to more developer desktops which might help out development efforts overall.
Some might argue that Android itself could be a netbook operating system — while I don’t disagree that it can server that purpose – the bottom line is that even an underpowered netbook still has more screen real estate and power than most smartphones. It’s a different use case, but there are some cross-over points. It will be interesting to see how Android impacts Linux over time (and vice-versa).