Linux has been the standard OS for embedded devices such as smart TVs, gaming consoles, set-up boxes, and other electronic devices. However, the release of Android OS has taken the industry by storm and as a result, a strong debate has started in technology streets that android could replace Linux operating systems as a preferred choice for next-age connected devices.
The million-dollar question is: Can Android replace Linux as the most preferred OS for Embedded devices?
Well, before jumping into more detail, Let’s understand the right way to evaluate the question by segregating it into two parts:
- What is the purpose of building the device?
- Benefits of Android OS over Linux?
Let’s look at the first question, the Purpose of building the device.
One should think what they’re looking for, while building a device, is it:
- To provide a rich UI that users can interact with
- To provide wireless connectivity (Bluetooth, WiFi, etc.)
- To allow users to download, play games and use apps available on the Android Play store to enhance device usability and productivity
- To create a device flexible enough to be upgraded with a new technology whenever required.
If all of the above options sound right to you then android should be your choice as an alternative to Linux.
Which now brings us to our next question: Is the android OS really ready to be used as a mainstream OS for Embedded devices?
The answer to this question is “Yes”. In the past few years, Android has not only changed the face of the smartphone industry but also marked its dominance in the automotive and entertainment industry as well. It is open-source, free, and flexible enough to be customized as per the requirement. Also, it supports tons of apps and games across themes like productivity, learning, and emulator applications, you name it -and it’s there in the play store.
The only challenge you may face is android customization because it requires a good level of programming knowledge. Without enough information, anyone can believe that android is just too bloated, slow, or not good for a device with anything smaller than a 1GHz CPU. But it’s not the case if you dive in deeper and collaborate with partners who know how to customize android applications.
Here are the key benefits of choosing the Android OS over LINUX.
Rich UX: The UX layer of android is much more advanced than Linux. It’s optimized and specially designed for touch screens with powerful process handling & rendering capacity and exposes a set of APIs that developers can use to create a great user experience.
Supports Multiple connectivity protocols: The neatly integrated advanced connectivity manager allows it to support multiple wireless connectivity protocols seamlessly.
Developer Community: Android has a well-established software development kit (SDK) and easy-to-understand publishing guides for new applications. If you ever choose to add more functionality to the device you can simply write a module and connect with your existing apps.
Built-in Telephony: Android has got a built-in telephony stack that includes GSM, LTE and also supports Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) that can be integrated to enable any hardware device to connect over the internet.
Here, a Linux expert can say that Android is built on Linux. That means, technically Linux can do everything mentioned above. Yes, technically it’s true but the point to consider is how much effort you have to make to customize Linux and achieve all these functionalities. Android has everything built-in, so why not leverage it?
Many people evaluate Android from its stock image that Google has maintained and conclude that it takes a lot of memory with high boot time, is not suitable for embedded devices, etc.
So, let’s bust some of the most common myths::
- Takes too much time to Boot-Up: Android’s boot and start-up modules are complex and highly customizable. In its early releases, the OS was slow because of less powerful hardware and bugs in initial releases. But now, there have been advances in the boot loader and hibernation sequences that resulted in significantly less boot time.
- Android Only Supports ARM: First of all, ARM is the most common platform for embedded devices. Moreover, it also supports MIPS, x86, Linaro, and other platforms used in embedded devices.
- It needs too much memory: Depending upon the level of customization Android OS can work efficiently in embedded devices even with 700 MHZ processors. But, for anything less, Linux is likely to be the best choice.
- Linux is more popular for embedded devices: Indeed it is, but only for readiness and time. If you study the current market, it’s all about applications and rich UX. It is very likely that your fridge, car, TV, and set-up box everything uses android.
The bottom line is that Android has a lot to offer not only for embedded but for every industry. You just need to have the right resource to customize it to suit your needs. Once you do, the benefits are tremendous.
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