What is Android x86? Are there Android for x86 alternatives?

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What is x86?

The x86 family of computer processors dates back to the 1970s. Primarily popularized by Intel, these systems use the x86 instruction set, which can loosely be thought of as the “language” x86 processors “speak.” Android (and AOSP, by extension) was architected to support ARM architecture processors, which use the ARM instruction set (based on the RISC instruction set) — a different “language.” All modern smartphones and most other mobile devices (including Apple’s iPhone, iPad, and MacBook laptops) use ARM architecture processors. 

This disparity can be seen in practice by engineers at a very low level: ARM and x86 processors both offer programming languages that allow a developer to interact directly with a device’s CPU. These are generally known as assembly languages. ARM and x86 use completely different assembly languages, and thus even fundamental code between the two is mutually unintelligible. While high-level languages were built to address some of these architectural challenges and bridge technical gaps, there remain inherent differences in how x86 and ARM processors behave.

How do you run Android on Intel x86?

Running Android on an x86 device presents challenges, as very few x86 platforms have been targeted for development by Google in recent memory. How, then, do you get Android on devices that aren’t explicitly supported?

Using AOSP, it’s not as hard as you might think. However, you need lots of bits and pieces to get things humming, and you still don’t have anything resembling a commercial OS.

If you’re going to do Android on x86 correctly, you need a solution that covers you from end to end. From validating your hardware targets, optimizing your firmware, deploying your OS in the field, and finally distributing and updating your software on those devices over the air. These are the cornerstones of an Android x86 device strategy. Without them, you’re far more likely to waste time building tools than you are to drive innovation.

All that said, running Android on an x86 processor today is entirely feasible from a power user or developer perspective. Open projects like Android-x86 are being flashed to devices every day! But for businesses looking to deploy, manage, and update Android x86 devices at scale, such community projects lack critical support and management infrastructure.

Foundation x86 is an Android x86 alternative

It can be custom-built for ARM and x86 devices alike (we call this version Foundation x86). We get that every situation is different, and Foundation is flexible, agile, and completely customizable to fit almost any of them. 

With Foundation, can offer tighter control over the system image, elevated security in the kernel, and the ability to take control of updates and patches. You don’t even need to give up Windows if you don’t want to: Foundation x86 is fully dual-boot ready.

Run an Android x86 alternative on your kiosk or tablet

Imagine a 10-year-old point of sale (PoS) terminal in your restaurant running Windows. Even if you could upgrade that system to a newer Windows platform, it’s likely that it wouldn’t run very well and would potentially be missing features or introducing breaking changes to legacy applications.

What if you could migrate that device from Windows to Android? “That’d be swell,” you say, “but isn’t that going to be some kind of VM like BlueStacks, or an Android emulator hack?” Done cheaply and badly, sure: You could probably get an Android VM running inside Windows. But that creates performance issues and division of system overhead, which makes your already-slow and old x86 Windows system even slower. And you still have no one to support you if an app doesn’t work or a system becomes unstable or fails entirely.

Is an Android x86 alternative faster than Windows?

The test system in this example is a PAR 8000 series point-of-sale device of fairly modest computing power. It uses a dual-core Intel Celeron 3955U processor launched in 2015, with no support for hyperthreading. We ran Geekbench on it three times, in this case testing on Windows 10.

Here are a few of the core features of the Foundation: 

  • Highly Configurable – Esper Foundation for Android can be tailored to your specific requirements and use cases, be it retail kiosks, digital signage, and more. Flexibility and customization are core to the Foundation experience. 
  • Simple and Easy – Devices shipped after set up and will be ready to run with Esper. All you have to do is turn them on and manage apps and devices remotely. 
  • Increased Security – Foundation uses a hardened kernel with firmware matched to the device. If your device is stolen, a factory reset can be accessed only through the Esper console. And that’s just one of the ways we help protect your devices. 
  • Easy operations – The Esper console is so simple to use that it applies to a wide range of IT resources.   

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