Last week, Google stunned everyone by releasing the first Android 13 developer preview. While this first release includes a few new features, we expect the OS to undergo significant revisions in the future. One of these is a new core module that makes running virtual machines much more standardized and performant, allowing you to run Windows 11 on a Pixel 6 or 6 Pro, for example.
On the Android 13 developer preview, it’s feasible to run several Linux distributions and even full-fledged Windows 11 on a Pixel 6, as demonstrated by prominent Android developer kdrag0n on Twitter. Kdrag0n reports that Windows 11 is completely usable on their Pixel 6 after some tinkering, with a video demonstrating how efficiently and smoothly the virtual environment operates. Of course, if you’re feeling very adventurous, you may play a round of Doom.
These accomplishments have a complicated technological underpinning. In a long technical blog article, Esper.io’s Mishaal Rahman explains the subtleties of virtual machines on Android and what we can expect from them in the future, but the idea is this: Virtual machines on Android are in a state of disarray, and Google is beginning to focus on the issue with Android 13 to make things more uniform.
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To begin, Google has developed a new virtualization framework and released the pKVM (protected kernel virtualization mechanism), which provides the groundwork for standardized VM support. For this, Google is relying on earlier work. It’s migrating Chrome OS’ crosvm manager to Android as a core module that can be upgraded separately from the rest of the system in the future.
Google’s renewed interest in virtual machines might derive from a desire to make the update and booting process on Android phones more secure.
The business appears to be aiming to employ microdroid, a stripped-down version of Android that would be used to build elements of Android that would need to be recompiled anytime the Android Runtime (ART), the component of the OS that allows apps to operate, is updated. This recompiling process is now carried out on the host OS, which might have security consequences. However, these are all in the realm of the speculative, with security mechanisms in place that are likely difficult to crack as they are.