It has been a very long time since we last covered Android x86, but the project is still alive and kicking. If you're not familiar with it, Android x86 is a port of Android to x86-based PCs and Macs, with almost no changes to the interface (for better or for worse). The first stable port of Android 7.1 has just been released, so you can enjoy Nougat on your PC or virtual machine of choice.
CrossOver by CodeWeavers has been available for Mac and Linux for years, allowing users of those operating systems to run some Windows programs without a copy of Windows. It does this by utilizing Wine, an open-source Windows compatibility layer for Unix-based operating systems (CodeWeavers is one of the main contributors to Wine's codebase).
CodeWeavers is well-known for its CrossOver software, which allows some Windows programs to run on Mac and Linux. Back in August of last year, the company released a preview of CrossOver for Android, designed for Chromebooks with the Play Store and x86-based Android devices. Now CodeWeavers has released an update to the Preview, bringing several major improvements.
If you have ever used Linux, Mac, or another *nix operating system, you've probably heard of Wine. No, not the beverage - it's software that allows Windows programs to run on platforms that aren't Windows. Wine is one of my favorite open-source projects, under development since 1993 and having a massive community of developers and testers. Wine also maintains a database of compatible programs, which should give you an idea of the impressive compatibility.
CrossOver is essentially a commercial version of Wine, offering technical support and easier configuration of programs. Almost three years after development started on CrossOver for Android, CodeWeavers (the company responsible for CrossOver) is finally sharing a working preview on Google Play.
Windows Phone, eat your heart out. Android is now capable of virtualizing a full and up-to-date Windows desktop operating system. Well, one phone is at least, and it's probably not one you would have guessed: the ASUS ZenFone 2. XDA-Developers forum member ycavan managed to get Windows 7 running on his phone using a variety of custom tools, some impressive technical skill, and quite a lot of patience. Check it out in the video below:
To be clear, this is Windows 7, virtualized, running on a local virtual machine client accessed via the aSPICE KVM client for control. Windows is not being emulated (it's been done with older versions).
Back in June, Google announced Android was destined to gain 64-bit support in the coming L release. A few weeks later, Revision 10 of the Native Development Kit (NDK) was posted with support for the three 64-bit architectures that would be able to run the new version of Android: arm64-v8a, x86_64, and mips64. As we close in on the official release of Android L, Google has updated the NDK to revision 10b and added an emulator image developers can use to prepare their apps to run on devices built with Intel's 64-bit chips.
Today, the CEO of Unity Technology David Helgason announced a collaboration with Intel to add x86 support to the company's wildly popular Unity 3D game engine. The news was presented during the keynote speech at the Unite 2014 game developers conference alongside announcements for upcoming support of Samsung's Smart TVs and Google's Android TV.
Helgason delivered the information pretty quickly, but it's not the kind of thing that requires a long introduction.
Both Unity 4 and 5 will be updated to include support for Intel Core and Intel Atom-based mobile processors. This will allow developers to build native variants of their games for ARM and x86 targets with very little effort.
Running Android on a PC seems like a good idea, until you actually look at the logistics of making the platform work on a non-touch interface. Add to that all the projects out there attempting to do so with limited or completely absent support for Google Play, and you've got a recipe for lame. Console OS was looking for a cool $50k to make Android work on PCs, and the company has succeeded with almost a month left in the campaign.
Adobe AIR for Android can now run natively on Intel x86-based mobile devices, enabling people who own such a device to better run games and web apps that require the AIR runtime. This support will allow AIR developers to target the x86 hardware directly, getting improved performance out of the apps they create. AIR may not be quite the household name that Adobe Flash was, but it's still prevalent enough where people without the software installed are at least missing out on something. So congrats to Adobe for rolling this one out.
Perhaps the real news here, though, is that there are enough Android devices out there with an Intel chip for Adobe to care.
Intel's progress into the Android ecosystem hasn't exactly been earth-shattering. The number of high-end and mid-range smartphones equipped with an ATOM CPU still number in the single digits, making the x86 architecture a fairly low priority for app developers. In addition, Intel's emulator images have always lacked support for the Google APIs, leaving developers without the ability to test common staples like Google Maps or push messaging. Fortunately, that issue was recently rectified with KitKat as Google and Intel have finally shipped an x86 system image with Google API support.
Ok, so testing Android apps with Google-specific features on an ATOM emulator probably doesn't sound terribly exciting, but there's a major upshot: developers can finally use HAXM without making sacrifices!