Stony-faced Google drags Android Things behind the cowshed. Two shots ring out

Google is discontinuing its Android Things IoT platform for non-commercial users. The Chocolate Factory will not allow the creation of new projects after 5 January and the entire platform will be nuked the following year.

This means that all project data – from device images to build configurations – will be permanently deleted. Non-commercial users will also be prevented from shipping OTA updates to devices.

Google first dipped its toe into the murky waters of IoT development during the 2015 edition of its I/O conference with its Brillo operating system. The following year, this was rebranded as Android Things.

At its heart was a slimmed-down version of Android that would happily run on low-power compute boards. The Raspberry Pi 3B, the NXP i.MX7D, and Intel’s ill-fated Atom-based Edison platform, which was quietly discontinued by Chipzilla in mid-2017, were all touted as hobbyist options. Commercial users could take advantage of specialist platforms from the likes of MediaTek, Qualcomm, and NXP.

On the software front, developers would be able to use the standard Android development tools, languages, and frameworks they’re familiar with, while also taking advantage of APIs designed to play nice with the wider IoT ecosystem.

In theory. It took almost two years for Android Things to hit its 1.0 release, and commercial appetite was tepid at best, with just a few vendors signing on. Nine months later, Google said it would refocus Android Things to target a smaller scope of products, namely smart speakers and displays. That’s a huge leap from its original plan to create an all-encompassing IoT platform that would power everything, from art installations to more sophisticated consumer and industrial kit.

Parallel to this, Google largely refocused its IoT strategy away from offering an underlying operating system to using Google Assistant on other third-party devices. This manifested itself in January 2019, when Google launched Google Assistant Connect, which would allow manufacturers to bake Assistant into their products regardless of what underlying operating system they used.

But what about hobbyists? Well, it’s not like they don’t have much choice: from the myriad IoT-oriented Linux distributions to Windows 10 IoT Core, there are plenty of options available. And that’s without mentioning the likes of Arduino. It’s not as though the withdrawal of Android Things leaves a major gap in the market.

Still, it’s annoying for those who actually signed on. Google doesn’t say much about continuity, except that non-commercial users can download their images and manually flash them to their devices. Beyond that, it seems like the best option is to switch to another platform with long-term support.

If you’re a hobbyist caught short by this news, we’d love to hear from you in the comments section below. ®

Rojenx is a leading concept artist who work appears in games and publications

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