Anbox for Android-to-Linux Tool Devs

It has always been a challenge to run android applications natively in a Linux system. A lot of research has been going on to figure this out. Many open source experts were trying to come up with a feasible solution that allows Android apps to run on a Linux environment without issues. Fortunately, one of them has finally done it. The open source project termed ‘Anbox’ could be the next big thing not just in the open source software development sector but also in Android development.

Simon Fels, the brain behind the project, has been working on it independently since 2015 and released a pre-alpha version of the new platform a few months ago. According to Fels, the idea was to put Android into a LXC-based container, linking only the relevant parts to the host Linux OS while restricting accessibility to user data and hardware. The Anbox platform is now ready for a wider audience.

Anbox in a nutshell

Fels said that the platform essentially isolates the Android system from the host by taking Linux namespaces (user, network etc.). Anbox also provides Open GL ES support by taking code parts from Android emulator implementation. Using these code parts, the platform can arrange the command stream serially before sending to the host.

Fels also stated that the source code is wholly open source. Most features are licensed under the GPLv3 terms. However, a few are Apache 2.0 for compatibility. Fels added that the pre-alpha version may still experience crashes and instability issues, and the next phase will rectify and stabilize the release while adding new features that improve integration with the host OS.

Anbox and its promise

Earlier efforts, like Shashlik, to run Android apps on a Linux environment were not successful. But Anbox shows promise and potential, and may not fall short like its predecessors. The platform can attract more developers to the already large Android developer community, and can make it easier to create innovative apps as well, according to Paul Teich, principal analyst at Tirias Research.

Teich also added that the platform supports network access, input, audio, and display interfaces even in its early phase. However, the developers will still have to rely on current tools if they require access to accelerometers, radios, and cameras. Reportedly, Anbox runs smooth thanks to snaps and LXC containers.

The next version might have more interfaces implemented for the major classes of sensors, making Anbox an easy alternative for mobile application development.