JIDE Forced to Remove Google Play Store from Remix OS

gplaystoreMy personal desires at the Dark Android Project for a serious Android desktop option is not anything new. The closest this has come to reality is with the company JIDE’s very own Remix OS, which pulls off all manner of desktop staples with Android, including multi-window support, uniform keyboard and mouse controls across apps, and app resizing, just to name a few. Also, since January of 2016, JIDE has made Remix OS compatible with x86 devices, meaning you can literally run it on a desktop.

But more or less before they released Remix OS for everyone to use, they were selling their own not-so-impressive desktop Android device called the “Remix Mini”. It was rather underpowered, and I don’t necessarily recommend buying it, but it was certainly an interesting first outing for the new company, and it was definitely a proof-of-concept. And part of that particular device’s strength was that it came with the one thing that everyone seems to need when it comes to an Android device: The Google Play Store. This made the whole thing a lot more viable.

SIDE NOTE: Not that you can’t sideload the Google Play Store onto many devices that don’t come with it natively, anyways, but for some that can be a complex extra step, and it’s something you may find you have to keep updating. Bottom line, it’s a pain, and I get it, and the whole reason I want an Android desktop is so that people can get easy access to easy encryption tools. Complicating the matter defeats that purpose.

However, recently Alphabet/Google has contacted JIDE, informing them that they need to remove the Google Play Store from their Remix Mini devices, citing issues with the implementation of Android on the Remix Mini particularly.

Can JIDE resolve these issues and get the Google Play Store put back onto the Remix Mini? Possibly (also, if you don’t update the OS on the Mini, you can keep the Google Play Store). Could Google be doing this out of a security concern based around a specific issue that only they recognize with Remix OS? It’s probable. And if there are some serious security concerns here, I get it.

But none of that is the point I want to drive home here. The point I want to drive home is that manufacturer’s and businesses–and seemingly consumers–will bend over backwards to make sure they have the Google Play Store on their devices. Android, schmandroid…what matters are the apps, not the operating system, in most everyone’s eyes. And in a way I agree, that’s part of the reason I look forward to great Android desktop implementations, but trusting a giant app store run by a company that can just take it away at will is pretty concerning, and goes against what–I think–people have come to expect for decades with their computing devices.

Microsoft can’t just take away your copy of Photoshop (okay, technically, maybe they could). You don’t just go losing your install of Audacity. And even if you didn’t have Windows 10’s shiny new “Windows Store”, who gives a shit? The software I mentioned doesn’t rely on any dependencies within Microsoft’s little app store, so fuck it. Just run it.

SIDE NOTE: While in the abstract I love the idea of Universal Platform Apps for Windows 10, where an app can work on any type of screen and/or device, I’ll admit that those apps creating a dependency on having a Microsoft app store installed is just as troubling as what I’m talking about with the Google Play Store.

But if Google says you can’t have the Google Play Store anymore? Well, forget about many of your apps working anymore. They require “Play Store dependencies” that means that unless the Play Store is installed, you can’t access the app. It’s insidious for the consumer, in my opinion. The Play Store goes away, so does most access to your apps.

I’ve mentioned this before here on the Dark Android Blog and on my tech podcast, Sovryn Tech: The only thing that matters to Apple, Google, Microsoft, and the rest, are their app ecosystems. “He who controls the apps, controls the universe”, you could say. And the apps–and their “stores”–don’t have to ride along on your Android device, they can be taken away in a heartbeat, with the consumer being told little as to why. And I think that’s a problem.

SIDE NOTE: But don’t you need the right operating system to run all those apps, you might say? Not at all. As Microsoft has proven with their Android and iOS compatibility layer and emulation initiatives (and had been proven in other ways long before), you can technically run these apps on any operating system. Again, what matters is having control of the distribution of these apps.

Again, for decades people were able to either buy a disk, a CD, or go to a company website and download amazing software largely independently of any tech giants permission, and no one could take the software away from you. This is no longer the case thanks to the big boys in Silicon Valley. Fuck these guys.

SIDE NOTE: You can always use the F-Droid app repository, but obviously the selection there pales in comparison to what you can get on the Play Store, and thus many don’t consider it a viable alternative, even though I recommend it heartily.

Perhaps in the future people will demand the ability to independently install their apps and software again (with Android, sometimes you still can), and everyone can have actual control and possession of their software again.

Carpe lucem!