It was big news when Jide announced at CES 2016 that the alpha build of its Remix OS, an Android-based operating system, would be free for both PC and Mac, but this week at MWC we got word that the beta version is forthcoming.
Further, in our conversation with company representatives including co-founder David Ko, it became clear to us that Jide has two main types of users in mind for Remix OS: Techies who want to bring new life to old hardware and people in developing nations who lack resources to acquire sufficient computing devices.
We all have an old laptop or ignored tablet floating around the house somewhere. Remix OS provides a lightweight operating system that has the polish and app availability of Android, with some UI tweaks to make it look better on a larger display and with mouse and keyboard input. And because of the work done by the Android-x86 project, Remix OS can run on x86 hardware.
Ko pointed out that when people in developing nations first engage with the Internet, it’s likely on an Android device, so leveraging that ecosystem made sense. Further, in some areas, not everyone can afford a computing device, so multiple people may be taking turns using the same device, whether that’s a family in one household or a whole neighborhood gathering at a local shop to get online. To ensure security, privacy and a more custom experience, you can carry Remix OS on a USB stick, plug it into the communal device, and away you go.
Performance, of course, is key; obviously as an alpha build, Remix OS has its issues, but I was impressed with what I saw it do this week. In a meeting, Ko demonstrated a not-so-new touchscreen laptop running Remix OS. Where one might expect apps running in the background but displaying one at a time, there was a multi-window environment. Ko had as many as five windows open at once, and he was able to click and drag to reorder them around the screen with no lag. I should also note that the UI itself is simple, clean and attractive.
We’ll have to wait until March 1 to see everything the beta has in store, but Ko mentioned a few items that are coming, including OTA updating (meaning you no longer have to download an image to update), support for older 32-bit hardware, and a new UEFI with dual-boot capabilties. Support for more devices and an "advanced" file manager are coming soon, too.
One caveat is that Google Play (both the Store and Services) aren't available, but Google is actually working on that, and in the meantime, you can sideload Google Play Services.
There is yet much work to be done on Remix OS, but the direction Jide is heading and the support it's receiving point to an increased potential for success. Momentum seems to be building.