With the news that the Linux kernel is going to see Android compatibility, there has been a growing sense that Android apps will be finding themselves at home on the Linux desktop.
In this article, I will dive into how Android compatibility might affect the desktop Linux and what we might see happening in the near future as well. While the news of Android compatibility might seem unimportant to the casual Linux user, it could potentially mean big opportunities for Android developers.
Android on your desktop
When the news of Android compatibility was announced, I immediately heard from Android developers who saw this as an opportunity for their applications to run on the Linux desktop.
Obviously, there's going to be plenty of applications designed for Android that won't run on Linux because of the X window system. In the long run, however, I think that there'll be plenty of cool Android applications that will run on Linux without much tweaking at all.
So why does this matter? The answer is simple – more software means more choices. And more software choices translates into more newcomers to Linux, attracted by familiar software titles they already enjoy on their Android phones.
Back on the Android development front, I envision many tablet-ready applications finding their way into app stores such as the Ubuntu Software Center. It's decisions like this – made by both kernel developers and Google alike – that are going to pay big dividends with extra user adoption down the road.
A gateway to proprietary apps
Photoshop Touch for Android not only exists, it actually works pretty well. Now, consider the potential of a Photoshop title coming to desktop Linux? Thanks to the Android code now bundled in the kernel, I see no reason why future releases of Photoshop Touch couldn't make its way to the Linux desktop.
Obviously, the current release of Photoshop Touch is a touch-based application. Therefore it wouldn't be too pleasant to use without a touch screen environment. But who's to say that the next release won't have an option to work with both a mouse or a touch-based option? Thanks to Android, existing titles can be expanded into the Linux space, should Adobe wish them to be.
Of course, this begs the bigger question: are proprietary apps in a position where software porting makes sense on the Linux desktop? Yes, I believe that with this Android inclusion, we will begin to see a flood of new proprietary applications making their way onto the Linux desktop. I also believe we're going to see a big uptick in new users.
That said, here's the problem – I generally prefer using FoSS-licensed applications on my Linux box. Not because I consider myself a "FoSS purist," rather because I dislike vendor lock-in. It's generally impractical and is entirely too controlling for my taste.
Worse, this embrace of Android in Linux could simply push forth more Chrome OS/Android dominance on the desktop, leaving other distributions out in the dark. Well, at least that is a theory I've heard from some of the more "concerned" Linux enthusiasts out there.
Paranoia aside, there isn't likely going to be any Google conspiracies trying to gain more users for Google products.
The DRM factor
I think in the long run, Android apps will make their way to the Linux desktop after some brief adoption period passes by. Once this happens, additional DRM-based content will likely be made available to all Linux users, not just those running Android and Chrome OS.