Canonical announces Anbox Cloud for businesses to serve Android apps from the cloud
Canonical is known primarily as a company that distributes the free and open-source Ubuntu operating system. The desktop version of Ubuntu still has its uses, but for the past few years, Canonical’s attention has been on cloud services. Ubuntu is available for servers and clouds as separate variants, and the company’s focus on cloud services instead of desktop GNU/Linux is because cloud services are simply much more profitable. Now, Canonical has announced the Anbox Cloud solution, which is a solution for telcos to let developers host Android apps in the cloud.
The company describes Anbox Cloud as “a mobile cloud computing platform that leverages Android as an engine for virtualising mobile workloads. [It] is highly scalable and offloads compute, storage and energy-intensive applications from devices to any cloud.” The premise here is simple: think of a game streaming service such as Google Stadia, but for Android apps. Anbox Cloud is intended for developers. If they take up Canonical’s offer, users will be able to stream Android apps and games over the web form a remote server, instead of running them on their phone.
The benefit is that it removes the hardware requirements of running complex apps and games are negated. Users can theoretically run any Android app on any Internet-connected device, irrespective of their device’s hardware capabilities. As the OS and its associated processing power are hosted in the cloud, users would theoretically be able to run high-end 3D Android games on entry-level phones.
Game streaming from the cloud is just starting to get off with Google Stadia, NVIDIA GeForce Now, PlayStation Now, and Microsoft’s Xbox Live, but up until now, no one had made an app streaming solution. This means that it’s certainly a bold idea from Canonical, but the success of the idea depends on adoption by telcos (businesses).
The name Anbox is the same as the Anbox tool is that lets users run Android apps on any Linux distribution by putting Android into a container that runs within the Linux environment. It’s not a coincidence – Canonical brings Anbox to the cloud, that lets users run Android apps on any Internet-connected device, and the device doesn’t need to be running a Linux distribution. Canonical states that Anbox Cloud is built on the Ubuntu 18.o4 LTS kernel, LXD containers, MAAS, and Juju.
Canonical is inviting businesses to request access to Anbox Cloud. The initiative certainly seems promising on paper, as it will theoretically democratize software and remove the need for consumers to buy expensive devices to run high-end apps and games. The company is especially promoting the Android game streaming aspect of Anbox Cloud. As we have seen before, however, great ideas need large-scale developer adoption to get off the cloud. Canonical has experience in this regard thanks to its failed initiatives of convergence, Ubuntu Phone, and Unity 8 in the past. The company will be hoping that Anbox Cloud gets positive reception, and because of the idea’s innovative potential, we hope to see it succeed.