Talkin’ Treble: How Android engineers are winning the war on fragmentation
With the launch of Android 8.0 last year, Google released Project Treble into the world. Treble was one of Android’s biggest engineering projects ever, modularizing the Android operating system away from the hardware and greatly reducing the amount of work needed to update a device. The goal here is nothing short of fixing Android’s continual fragmentation problem, and now, six months later, it seems like the plan is actually working.
At Google I/O this year, you could see signs of the Treble revolution all over the show. The Android P beta launched, but it wasn’t just on Google’s own Pixel devices—for the first time ever, an Android Developer Preview launched simultaneously on devices from Google, Nokia, OnePlus, Xiaomi, Essential, Vivo, Sony, and Oppo, all thanks to Project Treble compatibility. Even car makers—some of the slowest adopters of technology on Earth—were on the Project Treble train. Dodge and Volvo both had prototype cars running Android as the infotainment system, and both were running Android P.
As is becoming custom for our annual trip to Google I/O, we were able to sit down with some core members of the Android Team: Iliyan Malchev, the head of Project Treble, and Dave Burke, Android’s VP of engineering. (We quoted Iliyan Malchev a million times during the Android 8.0 review, so it was nice to get information from him first hand, and Dave Burke has been through the Ars interview gauntlet several times now.) And through this lengthy chat, we got a better understanding of what life is like now that Project Treble is seeing some uptake from OEMs.