Alien Dalvik hopes to bring Android apps to Maemo and Meego

Published by David Gilson at 14:13 UTC, February 8th 2011

Software company Myriad, has announced a Qt port of the Android VM, Dalvik. The demo video (below) accompanying the release shows Alien Dalvik running Android applications on an N900, which received the Qt framework in the PR 1.3 release of Maemo 5. Myriad says that it will make Alien Dalvik commercially available for MeeGo. Myriad claims that the user experience should be seamless with Android application icons appearing along side native applications. Read on for more anaysis.

Myriad claims that it has integrated the Android SDK with the Qt development framework. As such, users should be able to transparently run and install Android applications on their non-Android device. Because Alien Dalvik is running atop of the Qt framework, we should expect that hardware integration will run to the extent of the Qt implementation on any given platform.

This means that developers could develop once for Android, and see their applications installed and purchased on any other mobile platform supported by Alien Dalvik. This certainly undermines the write once, install anywhere, ethos behind Qt itself. In principle, Myriad would be taking over Qt integration, leaving developers to write only for Dalvik.

In the MeeGo space, this opens up competition on two fronts. Developers will have to choose between focussing on Android Dalvik, with the hope of getting additional purchases from MeeGo users who have installed Alien Dalvik, or alternatively, developers may additionally, or exclusively, develop in Qt, and submit their application to both the Ovi Store for Nokia devices, and to Intel's AppUp store for Netbooks and Tablets. That is of course assuming that the MeeGo space will not become further fragmented with different device makers adopting their own exclusive ecosystems based on top of the core MeeGo OS.

Myriad has provided a demo video (see below), with Android applications running on a Nokia N900 (Maemo 5). However, at the time of writing, there is not a public beta of Alien Dalvik. This could cause some concern that Alien Dalvik will only amount to vapour-ware. However, Myriad's press blog reports that Myriad will be at MWC 2011. It is hoped that a demonstration of Alien Dalvik will be on show.

As well as continuing our sponsorship of the prestigious "Best Handset or Device" GSMA Awards, Myriad will also host an hospitality suite on the Avenue, stand AV91 at Mobile World Congress 2011.

It should also be noted here that Myriad has demonstrated Alien Dalvik running on Maemo 5 only. It has been misreported elsewhere that Alien Dalvik will run on any Nokia device with Qt, namely Symbian^3. Until we hear otherwise, this is not the case. I received the following answer when I asked Myriad's press office about Alien Dalvik on other platforms:

Myriad Group anticipate additional versions of Alien Dalvik will be developed to support other mainstream operating systems. They are currently working with a number of partners to prioritise against market demand. In terms of your question regarding feature phones, this is once again something that will be based on market demand.

Myriad stated in their press release that MeeGo will be the first platform to see a commercial release of Alien Dalvik. The same press release stated:

Alien Dalvik enables the majority of Android applications to run unmodified, allowing application store owners to quickly kick start Android application store services by simply repackaging Android Package (APK) files.

From a user perspective, Alien Dalvik is completely transparent. Alien Dalvik applications appear as native and can be seamlessly installed on device without user disruption. All the user sees is that he now has access to a wider range of applications, thus encouraging a higher frequency of downloads and increased ARPU.

"The proliferation of Android has been staggering, but there is still room for growth. By extending Android to other platforms, we are opening up the market even further, creating new audiences and revenue opportunities" said Simon Wilkinson, Chief Executive Officer, Myriad Group.

From application components to complete device integration, Myriad provides best-in- class Android solutions. As a founding member of the Open Handset Alliance (OHA), Myriad has been playing a key role in Android solutions since its early days. When partnering with Myriad for Android application development or porting, operators, OEMs and application store owners will benefit from Myriad’s rich heritage in Java technology and unique Android expertise.

It is interesting to see this move, after news broke last year that community hackers had ported Android the to N900. The project highlighted the demand from Android fans to see their favourite mobile OS running on Nokia hardware. Indeed, Q4 of 2010 saw Symbian lose its place as the biggest selling smartphone platform to Android.

The announcement of the Android ecosystem perhaps coming to other platforms via the back door, comes with an extra degree of uncertainty. Oracle has filed a lawsuit against Google, in which it asserts that Dalvik infringes on its Java VM intellectual property.

Furthermore, this will certainly be a controversial issue for Apple and Nokia, who both operate their own ecosystems around their own hardware. Apple will most certainly never allow such an application through their infamously asinine approvals process. Similarly, it is unlikely that Nokia would approve a competing ecosystem through the Ovi Store. However, things are slightly more liberal in the Symbian world than the iOS world because users can still install a .SIS file manually without using the Ovi Store.

We will be following this story with interest, and a somewhat skeptical eye.

David Gilson for All About MeeGo, 8th February 2011. 

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