Google wants the Android kernel to be the Linux kernel.

Part II: Google wants the Android kernel to be the Linux kernel and is spending a lot of effort to make it happen.

(Click here to Read Part I)

This is how Google wants Android to work. It’s a long way from doing so and probably will never happen because it would mean companies need to spend extra time and money to support a cheap chip that’s inside your phone or open-source the code to power it correctly. Neither sounds like a good option to the Qualcomms and Broadcoms of the world who want to maximize profits and hold its IP as a closely guarded secret.

Update everything all at once

If Microsoft can update a billion computers all at once why can’t Google update two billion phones? Windows must be better than Android’s kernel mess. Right?

Wrong. It’s different and good since the move to Windows NT, but neither is “better” than the other on a purely technical level. In fact, they are exactly the same when it comes to updates!

No matter which OS you use there is no one-size-fits-all update file.

Remember how I said you can easily update the Linux kernel version on a PC? Well, Microsoft can also easily update its kernel and user utilities on a PC. Both happen partially for the same reasons. PCs have standards like UEFI or Machine BIOS that allow different hardware manufacturers to boot an instance that a “real” OS can use to load itself. Your phone’s ARM hardware doesn’t have this and instead relies on a simple bootloader to provide power then turn on the OS itself. PC parts manufacturers also happily provide Microsoft with whatever is needed to update the OS and use their products because they want to be Windows certified. Without any unified standards, every Android phone is essentially unique and needs an entirely different kernel as explained above. It’s simply not possible for Google to build a kernel for the Pixel 4 and ship it out as an update for any other phone.

Google tries everything it can think of to make Android updates better. One day, it will have accomplished everything it set out to do.

When it comes to apps and utilities, the company that makes your phone is the one who decided how to implement them. Things like Project Mainline aim to fix this, but as of today only Samsung can update a Galaxy S10 and the update for a Galaxy S10 from Verizon is not interoperable with a Galaxy S10 from T-Mobile.

When it comes to phones, it’s also worth remembering that there was no one file that could update phones from Nokia, HTC, and Samsung. Every phone had to be treated individually, and while Microsoft said it couldn’t update many models to Windows 10 while users were editing a few registry files and making it happen anyway. ARM products like phones are just not built for universal updating the same way other computers are. 

 

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