Google drops RISC-V support from Android Common Kernel

Android Authority reports that Google has dropped RISC-V support from the Android Common Kernel (“ACK”):

Although Google has shown significant progress in recent weeks in improving RISC-V support in Android, it seems that we’re still quite a bit away from seeing RISC-V hardware running certified builds of Android. Earlier today, a Senior Staff Software Engineer at Google who, according to their LinkedIn, leads the Android Systems Team and works on Android’s Linux kernel fork, submitted a series of patches to AOSP that “remove ACK’s support for riscv64.” The description of these patches states that “support for risc64 GKI kernels is discontinued.”

While Google has denied that this means that it is killing off RISC-V support entirely, it is bad news for RISC-V adoption overall. Any hardware manufacturers and developers looking to support RISC-V will need to build and maintain their own fork of the Linux kernel with the requisite ACK and RISC-V patches.

The Register however reports that Android is accepting RISC-V patches via AOSP, so all may not be entirely lost.

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Has a long history of dropping projects.

They have money to start research, but like every company, won’t continue pumping money if they don’t see good returns.

They released Flutter SDK few years back. It seemed promising and a lot many young developers in my country learn Flutter. But personally, I feel bearish about the future of Flutter. There were layoffs couple of days back and Google doesn’t seem to be pushing Flutter as strongly as I’d expect.

At the same time, they’ve put almost a decade of effort into Flutter. Maybe they’ll continue maintaining it. But Google did kill off AngularJS after a decade of effort.

Anyways, I personally wasn’t very hopeful of Google being able to push for new technology like RISC-V. Monetary gains is their biggest propeller. They’d want to focus more on products which generate regular revenue.

They’re still accepting patches for risc-v, so maybe it’s not the best idea the view every article as entirely correct. Google might be playing the waiting game and want to see what happens to risc-v.

About Flutter

I’m also using flutter, I really hope they keep going forward with it, because it is relatively easy to use and learn. But since I started using it (~4 years), there were many times news like these and yes there were many important people who were laid off, even people who were the “face” of it. But it still keeps going on and gets better every year. You can’t improve without letting people go, who aren’t necessarily useful for the project. Since last year there were big lay offs all over the tech sector and it still didn’t stop, it’s not just a Google issue.

One example who was “laid off” is Filip Hráček, for me he was one of the main faces, he is still using flutter and advocating for it, he is making a 3D game with it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffbDB6XGHZM He might be a lay off who just wanted to do his own thing. I just remember the doomerism when he left. Lot of people said it’s the end for sure.

So yeah, I think Google is just being dynamic with the teams and products. I don’t think we should be too doomy with everything they do, I’m pretty sure they know what they’re doing. Flutter seems more and more as a core product they want to rely on in the long run. There are many advantages about Flutter, especially if you think about it as a platform, it makes it easy for Google to capture a lot of untapped potential in developing markets and lure developers to their products and keep selling ads. They can expand their market with this, for example if a developer decides to learn flutter instead of kotlin, they will have an easier time putting their apps on the apple app store too and if they are already using flutter, they’re more likely to display ads from google in their app.

The main advantage I see is that it’s super easy for a developer, to get into it and start doing cross platform stuff without a bigger team where you need specialized teams for every platform. There are many people in less developed countries who, don’t have the availability of the same kind of education and employment opportunities as westerns devs do.

I remember before I have started using flutter I tried using react and react native, I had a lot of problems getting things to just work. I never had those kinds of frustrating problems with flutter. Those things just worked with flutter and I still didn’t find issues that were as frustrating as the ones I got with react. Everything was simple, I never had to watch video tutorials or attend courses or go on endless deep dives to make stuff work. The documentation was great and easy to read and nowadays I can find most things I need in the API documentations.

I had a recent positive experience. My app is close to being done and at this point it’s relatively complex. Right now I’m aiming for Android support, but I was bored and got curious about the Apple hellhole. I don’t own any apple device. So I spent a few hours to start macos in qemu, I managed to do it. I was so surprised after I cloned the git repo and made some quick adjustments(5 minutes) to iOS related configs, started the app in the phone simulator. The app ran without issues, everything seemed to work. I was kind of worried how hard it will be to set up for that system, but it was breeze. I managed to start the app on Linux and windows too, I just disabled some unnecessary plugins. So yeah it closes a big gap for me as a lone dev and I think for others too. I don’t know how react cross platform is nowadays, but back then is was close to cancer. (I can’t imagine it’s a lot better, since sometimes you can’t even scroll on Facebook without weird issues. There is always some weird bug I notice when I use it. And other react based apps are still slow af, like they only make them for high end phones or something.)

But yeah, the fate of angularjs worries me too. It’s true, every time they abandon technologies. I’m less worried when they abandon products.

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They have updated the article

Our initial interpretation of these patches was that Google was preparing to kill off RISC-V support in Android since that was the most obvious conclusion. However, a spokesperson for Google told us this:
Android will continue to support RISC-V. Due to the rapid rate of iteration, we are not ready to provide a single supported image for all vendors. This particular series of patches removes RISC-V support from the Android Generic Kernel Image (GKI).

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