back to article Your next PC is… your 'Droid? Remix unveils Continuum-killer

Jide, the company founded by three ex-Googlers, has shown how a phone can act as a Continuum-style hub. When plugged into an external monitor, the Android device – with the new and as-yet unreleased cut of Jide's Remix OS – allows the user to work with "desktop-friendly" versions of the apps that are already installed on the …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why its own OS?

    Why not port Xorg to Android?

    1. Jonathan 27 Bronze badge

      Re: Why its own OS?

      Good luck getting Xorg to run in a Sandbox. That sounds like 100x times the amount of effort it takes to develop Remix OS.

  2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Ubuntu

    Ubuntu has been doing this for a couple years now

    1. Anonymous Coward
      WTF?

      Re: Ubuntu

      "Ubuntu has been doing this for a couple years now"

      Microsoft Continuum not to be confused with Ubuntu Convergence.

      1. dajames Silver badge

        Re: Ubuntu

        Microsoft Continuum not to be confused with Ubuntu Convergence.

        Indeed.

        Canonical have been talking about Convergence for longer than Continuum has been a Thing. See this ubuntubuzz article from February 2012, for example.

        Remix is still interesting, though, and it's nice to see Continuum is also getting closer.

  3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    They have great vision but I suspect it's going to be a while before they get there: the devil is very much in the detail on these things but building up from the phone is the way to go. Just not x86.

    I was pleasantly surprised the other day when I enabled multi-window view on LOS 14.1 on my S5

    1. Sampler

      Android just isn't there when it comes to desktop. I put Remix on a spare laptop when el'Reg reviewed it before (in the link on this article) and it's a compromise, it was like, I can almost do what I normally do in windows, only it's a bit more wonky and not as many features/choices/options.

      Forgivable for a young, free OS and apps that aren't designed with being on the desktop in mind, but, it's still that bit more annoying than using Windows, so why would I given the choice.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        It seems like Google isn't going down this route with Android for the reasons you state. They are going to stick with Chrome OS for desktop and just add the Android apps. Chrome already has pretty wide circulation and, with Play Store, I would think devs would start writing full desktop versions of their apps.... at that point, you could probably use either an Android dock or Chrome.

        1. Bullseyed

          Not sure, I've seen 'leaks' of a Samsung Android version of this.

  4. GitMeMyShootinIrons

    Continuum...

    I'm one of those rare beasts - A happy Windows Phone 10 user with Continuum. Even more astounding is actually how useful it is. I've plugged my phone in for PowerPoint shows, written documents, browsed and successfully tested virtual desktop access with it.

    Windows Phone may not be as popular as Android or iOS, but it actually got the concept of the phone being used to propel a laptop/desktop device just about right - enough so that others are looking at the idea with interest.

  5. dmck

    Well considering that most phones are using ARM processors and Acorn Computers Ltd designed the ARM (Acorn Risc Machine) for a desktop computer it's pretty obvious that a modern ARM should be even more capable of driving a desktop.

  6. bigbenaugust

    This works only if I can still have root on the phone and more local applications (LibreOffice v. MS Office365 or Google Docs, for instance).

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One can only hope

    "phones are today so powerful, they are able to "double up" as PCs"

    Yes, yes they are. Android is well suited, and every Android I ever introduced a bluetooth mouse to loved it and presented that elusive creature the "desktop pointer." I would very much like this to become a thing, but for very selfish reasons; Apple. All I want is for my iPad Pro to play macOS along with, or instead of, iOS. They could release it next week, but wont. It's a very nice and profitable arrangement with multiple devices doing slightly different work with all the same content, no? So, Google, Androidy developers, hop to!!1!

    Killer features have a way of appearing on all the various branded devices, once it hits some kind of threshold. It is known.

    1. JustNiz

      Re: One can only hope

      No, No they're really not, unless all you do with your PC is surf the net and read email.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: One can only hope

        >No, No they're really not, unless all you do with your PC is surf the net and read email.

        Er, that's what a Personal Computer is used for. And a phone SoC has more than a enough grunt to run office applications, some light CAD, some simple image editing. Just because today's average desktop is the equivalent of yesteryear's workstation doesn't mean it has to be used for intensive tasks - most people don't need to run physical simulations or edit 4K video.

        Still this Remix OS isn't intended for us - we don't need to to have our phones double up as a desktop computer because we can afford a discreet device - anything from a Raspberry Pi to an Intel Compute Stick. As the article says, Remix OS is intended for poorer countries.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          "Er, that's what a Personal Computer is used for."

          That's only for some of those who bought a PC only because there was that thing called the Internet... even running my camera free software to apply basic RAW edits requires more power than a phone has. Lightroom and Affinity ($100 software, not exactly workstation range) even more so. Sure, if all yo need is Instagram...

          And lets not talk about RAM needs and local storage.

        2. tiggity Silver badge

          Re: One can only hope

          I have a very old laptop as my home "PC" (why repolace it if it still copes with low intensity usage), my phone has lots more power & RAM, and handles badly written websites far better than laptop (i.e. sites high in sloppily written JS that uses lots of CPU cycles).

      2. Cuddles Silver badge

        Re: One can only hope

        "No, No they're really not, unless all you do with your PC is surf the net and read email."

        Or do word processing, data entry, basic spreadsheets, and a variety of other common tasks that don't actually need much processing power. For the average home user, a phone has more than enough computing power for everything they do except gaming. For the average office worker, a phone has more than enough computing power for the vast majority of things they'll need to do. There are plenty of things that need much more power than a phone will ever have, but that doesn't mean there aren't still plenty of situations where a phone with a decent screen and keyboard/mouse interface is more than enough to do the job at hand.

        1. DropBear Silver badge

          Re: One can only hope

          Except modern "word processing" and "basic spreadsheets" is something that puts the Fear of God into any gajillion-core desktop CPU with unlimited RAM. On 12 gigs of RAM with nothing else running, the last "basic spreadsheet" of mine that had barely anything more than a few pictures inserted was actively and _very_ visibly reloading every single one of them each time I was switching the sheet. Unless you're using some cloud-based "office suite" of course, in which case you're still _browsing_ anyway...

      3. Bullseyed

        Re: One can only hope

        You'll find that once you get into the business world, "surfing the web and reading email" is all sales actually is. Since any non-crap company has a SaaS CRM at this point, and SaaS ERPs are gaining in adoption.

    2. HappyBlue

      Re: Continuum...

      Windows phone with Continuum is very good and works very well, but it has limited use. However, it's not powerful enough to run anything beyond mail and browsers and (maybe) Word / Excel, which means that it's not enough of a PC to be a day-to-day workhorse for most workers.

      Having said that, it's a "first" version and will improve and should also push the developers like Remix to come up with alternatives that will also continue to improve. It's early days with this technology and the alternatives combined with ever-improving hardware, such as simple docking stations, that makes all of this "just work" mean that this is something to watch for in the future.

      For those people that don't want to take their PC with them everywhere, just because you have your phone/PC with you, you don't have to look at it. I have work mail on my phone, but I don't spend my weekends or holiday checking it or sending out emails, that won't change if the phone in my pocket is also what I use on my desk at work.

    3. Dave 126 Silver badge

      The issue has never really been about whether the SoC is powerful enough for useful desktop applications. The issues are based around the UI, the connection, the bloated nature of contemporary applications etc.

      Phones with as much RAM (4GB) as my laptop and far greater resolutions (though that's more the GPU than the ARM CPU) are not uncommon now.

      1. LDS Silver badge
        Trollface

        Maybe is your laptop to be quite underspecced for today standards...

    4. quxinot Silver badge

      I was going to rant endlessly about phones and desktops having rather different uses and capabilities. For a given level of technology, I suspect that I really don't want to try extracting 300 watts or so of heat from a hand-held device if I value my skin lacking burns.

      But you get the upvote of the day for pointing out the rather more prosiac and obvious difference. I have absolute authority over my desktop, and I say what goes. On the phone? Pffft. It's an endless pain in the backside to simply retain what little control is there.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Exploit developing countries

    Maybe they don't want a thin-client to a corporate cloud. Which is all a phone can ever be.

  9. ecofeco Silver badge

    I remember when I pointed this out last year

    I said last year that it was only a matter of time before your phone IS your PC as well.

    Got a lot of down votes for it. Which was very surprising on a tech site.

    I now to prove that I am indeed quite petty when it comes to being proven right, (something about not suffering fools), TOLD YA SO!

    1. Bob Vistakin

      Re: I remember when I pointed this out last year

      Sure you didn't say your windows phone?

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: I remember when I pointed this out last year

        Have an upvote from me Bob. I got the joke. :)

    2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: I remember when I pointed this out last year

      Yes it can be done. This isn't the first either.

      It might find a niche but to say that your phone is your PC is not going to cut it with a lot of people especially El Reg commentards.

      I leave my desktop behind when I stop work for good reason. I'm not at work. The last thing I want is my work problems in my pocket. that ain't good for your health both physically and mentally. Sorry but just No.

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: I remember when I pointed this out last year

        I agree with you Steve. When I'm away from my PC it's for good reasons. "Taking a break" is chief among those good reasons.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I remember when I pointed this out last year

        "I leave my desktop behind when I stop work for good reason. I'm not at work. The last thing I want is my work problems in my pocket. that ain't good for your health both physically and mentally. Sorry but just No."

        This could BE your work computer and phone for mobile workers - used as a work phone and connect to a work VDI or Citrix or whatever + the corporate pabx to give converged hot desking and mobility to workers. when needed or wanted you could also use at any location with a dock, either from another office or over a VPN when working from home due to (train strike, Weather, waiting for someone to fix your boiler... etc).

        A separate phone with the Jide software could also BE your personal phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, TV streaming box and games console. with the right docks. Most "Users" do very little processor intensive work on their "IT" devices. some browsing, shopping, email, chat, txt, photos, the occasional word document, nothing that would tax a "modern" phone. which is why PC sales have tanked.

        It wont replace task specific use cases but for lots of people it would be all they needed.

    3. Mad Hacker

      Re: I remember when I pointed this out last year

      Maybe it was because you were channeling "Captain Obvious"?

      I think everyone knows eventually our phones will replace our laptops/desktops. What's more interesting will be when we walk into a cubicle farm and on every desk there will be a VR headset instead of a monitor. Hopefully sanitary wipes will be available between uses.

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: I remember when I pointed this out last year

        Naw, I was told in no uncertain terms that a phone would never have the power or connection ability to replace a business or home PC.

        I was gobsmacked to say the least.

    4. SundogUK

      Re: I remember when I pointed this out last year

      It's not even close to being ready for all I use my PC for.

    5. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: I remember when I pointed this out last year

      >I said last year that it was only a matter of time before your phone IS your PC as well. Got a lot of down votes for it. Which was very surprising on a tech site.

      There is a difference between 'could be' and 'will be'. Here's the thing; this article doesn't vindicate you because this Remix OS is intended for people in poor countries who can't afford a computer in addition to thier phone. Most of us in the UK can find easier ways of doing things than using our phones as computers for little additional cost, such as using a laptop, using a Raspberry Pi or similar, using an Intel Compute Stick, using our phones with a Chromcast.

    6. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: I remember when I pointed this out last year

      Heck - I said it 10+ years ago.

      I had an XDA mini S at the time.

      A colleague and I envisaged a block about the size of a pack of cards which had a few essential connectors (power/USB/ethernet/vga <- feel free to update all of these to a single USB-C nowadays), 3G, WiFi, decent battery... and then you would have a remote display/audio device which would connect over bluetooth and use the mobile signal from there. You could dock it at your desk and work on it, you could have a portable screen/keyboard to use with it when out and about.

      It's not far off, except that the form factor has been rolled out, and a screen has been added where we didn't see the technology being ready (and it wasn't).

      USB-C is actually a pretty good answer to the issues the design faced (because those ports were annoying but absolutely necessary in our eyes, nothing proprietary).

      Current phone specs (sum of core speeds shown):

      16Ghz (8*2) A53, 3GB RAM, 32Flash, 2TB removable (keyONE)

      7.9GHz, 6GB RAM, 128GB Flash (OnePlus 3T)

      7.5GHz, 4GB RAM, 128GB Flash 2TB removable (LG V20)

      Those are ridiculous spec machines - yes you'll want a USB-C connector and the ability to drive a couple of screens from it, you'll want your multi TB raid array hooked in at the same time...

      But do we seriously think that 99% of tasks couldn't be done on the above.

  10. Andy Non Silver badge
    Meh

    Luddite here

    I must be in a minority here as I've no desire to use my phone as a PC. I'm happy with my Linux Mint desktop and a separate (Android) phone. If anything, I'm half tempted to dump my smart phone due to its poor battery life, endless updates and concerns over privacy and replace it with a dumb old fashioned feature phone. I gather Nokia is re-releasing an old favourite? Maybe I'm just an old fart and not "with it" any more. Call me a Luddite if you like.

    1. DNTP

      Re: Luddite here

      You're making too much sense to be a Luddite. I'm also firmly in the camp of wanting my phone to operate as a phone over anything else. And I can tether other things through it if I want more functionality.

    2. Vector

      Re: Luddite here

      OK, you're a Luddite. :D

      Maybe we could dig up an old PDP 11 for ya. I hear they were never going to be replaced by any microcomputer toy like that upstart Apple makes.

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: Luddite here

        I can tether other things through it if I want more functionality.
        I recently changed phone service provider, at a considerable cost saving, to one where I can no longer tether my ASUS Zenbook. So I'm going the other way — to a Galaxy Note 3. It weighs a lot less than the Zenbook. The not-user-replaceable battery for the Zenbook cost me $AU350, half what I paid for the machine. A replacement battery for the Galaxy is $AU12 post-paid!

        As for compute-power, when I purchased my first smartphone, it occurred to me that it was much more powerful than the old Fairlight CMI a mate purchased. He could have bought two houses for what he paid for it! There's an app for turning your phone into a CMI. It costs $US29.95! The only conundrum is how do you get a smartphone to read those old 8 inch floppies? ;-)

    3. earlyberd

      Re: Luddite here

      You went as far as to install Linux Mint on your desktop, but you threw in the towel on smartphone OSes?

      Have you never tried a custom ROM for your Android phone? That's the best way to cut yourself off from the automated updates and telemetry, and you may also be able to eke out some battery life gains after some tweaking.

      Sure, installing custom ROMs on phones is a different process than installing Linux on a desktop, but it is by no means difficult as long as you pick a device favored by developers, such as the Google Nexus line.

      Jide is going to force you to install a custom ROM anyway in order to take advantage of the features of Remix OS.

    4. P. Lee

      Re: Luddite here

      There are a couple of things worth mentioning.

      I was working for a company which had everything on citrix. I had my own laptop, but mostly it was a citrix client. A phone with a decent video-out capability could easily take that role and mean I can ditch a large lump of metal from my bag.

      We are constrained quite a bit by battery power. Even a phone running as a smartphone can suck the battery down quickly if you have the screen brightness up and you're running a game. If we can add a power to my screen-docking, we can really open up the CPU.

      Instant-on and quiet. I have a powerful PC desktop, but web and email are the most used functions. These are bad on a small screen with no keyboard and mouse, so just adding that would be worthwhile. A phone doesn't replace the PC, but it does mean I only need to turn the PC on when its really called for.

      And the downside? I don't trust mobile OS's. I don't want them transitioning to my desktop, I'm going to need a new linux OS for this to be a thing.

    5. Bullseyed

      Re: Luddite here

      The success of the Surface, as well as the success of the copycat Apple tablet keyboard cases proves a large number of people want to drop their mobile touch device into a scenario where they can use keyboard input.

      Since a tablet is nothing more than a phone with a bigger screen, allowing a phone to connect to a bigger screen (like a PC monitor) solves the scenario for which we see tablets in use in the office today.

      What would be great is if the phone dock could also have storage (synced to cloud of your choice), extra RAM and potentially a video card, so that the phone could match "workstation" speeds for more involved business tasks. While most don't need more than office/email/chrome for their SaaS, those who do work in larger spreadsheets could use the extra RAM. People wanting to do some VS work probably would too.

      Adding a wired network jack would be nice too.

    6. Bob Rocket

      Re: Luddite here

      I've got Linux Mint on my desktop and I'd like Linux Mint on my phone, that way when I drop my phone into the charging dock (that has keyboard/mouse/big screen attached) I've got Linux Mint on my desktop.

      I would pay for Linux Mint on my phone.

  11. Boohoo4u

    2nd

    I second the desire for the duel IOS/OS X on the IPad. If it existed I might actually use ICloud...

    Apple, if you want people pay up (at inflated prices) for the addition GBs, this is the way to do it.

    Otherwise, the duel function Andriod phone is something I'd buy.

  12. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Windows tablets - when the touch screen driver craps out...

    How do you fix a tablet when the touch screen driver craps out?

    This: OTG cable. Powered USB hub. Mouse. Keyboard. Pray that it works. Yes!

    The tablet has an HDMI output, so I could have plugged-in a monitor too I suppose.

    1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Windows tablets - when the touch screen driver craps out...

      I'm being stalked by an angry downvoter.

      Maybe somebody with bad "spleling".

      LOL

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Windows tablets - when the touch screen driver craps out...

        I think you've described a 'workaround', not a 'fix'! :)

        Still, I didn't downvote you.

    2. dajames Silver badge

      Re: Windows tablets - when the touch screen driver craps out...

      How do you fix a tablet when the touch screen driver craps out?

      This: OTG cable. Powered USB hub. Mouse. Keyboard. Pray that it works. Yes!

      The tablet has an HDMI output, so I could have plugged-in a monitor too I suppose.

      This is not something that only Windows tablets can do.

      I could do that with my old (2012) Samsung Android tablet, too. My more recent Asus Android tablet even came with a clip-on keyboard and touchpad (but the HDMI port is micro-sized and I haven't got the right cable to try it).

      Many Android apps work surprisingly well with a keyboard and touchpad ... which is probably why it's so annoying when one doesn't.

  13. Charles 9 Silver badge

    I'll believe an Android phone can replace the desktop then it can do Crysis...3...at 60fps at full 1080p resolution or higher. THEN it'll have the oomph to replace my desktop.

    1. Timmy B Silver badge

      "I'll believe an Android phone can replace the desktop then it can do Crysis...3...at 60fps at full 1080p resolution or higher. THEN it'll have the oomph to replace my desktop."

      I figure we're maybe 3 to 5 years off that, and that is the time it will take things like remix and continuum to really establish. I really like the idea of one device that holds everything and does everything but is all cloud backed up in case it gets lost or damaged.

    2. Pompous Git Silver badge

      THEN it'll have the oomph to replace my desktop.
      While my phablet won't replace my main desktop machine, it most certainly outguns most of the desktop machines I have owned. And they were all capable of doing useful WORK.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        "And they were all capable of doing useful WORK."

        Unless your definition of useful work is high-quality HD video encoding or 3D modeling work, in which case you're still gonna need more oomph.

    3. Dave 126 Silver badge

      > I'll believe an Android phone can replace the desktop then it can do Crysis...3...at 60fps at full 1080p resolution or higher. THEN it'll have the oomph to replace my desktop.

      By which time your desktop will run Crysis 4 at 120Hz at 4K HDR across three monitors. A bigger box will always be more powerful (greater room for heat dissipation).

  14. c3me

    http://www.sentio.com an Android mobile add on. Maybe a little more practical and usable.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sentio is Andronium it uses an app running on top of Android and the dock is powered by display Link. The functionality is not baked in to the core of the OS.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    IMO - but what would i know. Im already sold on the idea

    This is a great idea and has been tried before in different ways. Motorola - Atrix and Razr. and Asus with their Padfone range. (I own both)

    the Razr solution was slightly schizophrenic with two OS's and the hardware was not powerful enough

    the Padfone S/X solution is OK (i cant find anywhere get the Keyboard dock so dont have the full experience).

    Andronium launched the super book and that managed to get funded (ok its not made it mass market yet but shows there is some demand)

    Handset Hardware is now capable enough. what is needed is polished software and then multiple Major Manufacturers creating standards compliant hardware so it uses the same protocols. that way whatever device you had you could use a standard dock (OK there are security issues with Public USB :-( )

    I would like.

    Phone:

    5" screen, 2 x USB-C 3.1 gen 2 connectors (capable of power, multi Display, Data, Audio), 3.5mm audio Jack, 5,000mAh user replaceable battery MINIMUM, fast ARM 64 SOC. fast charge, NFC, wireless charge, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, hotspot, LTE, Bluetooth 4.x, Fingerprint sensor, dual camera, dual flash. front facing camera. Gorilla Glass 5 or sapphire screen. 4GB ram MINIMUM pref 8GB, 128 GB internal memory, UFS memory card slot. OLED screen. power and volume buttons

    Docks MUST be built so that they will support the future handset models produced by the manufacturer so they don't need replacing EVERY time the handset is upgraded !!!!!

    Tablet dock:

    HD screen 1920x1080, 2 x USB-C 3.1 gen 2 connectors (capable of power, multi Display, Data, Audio), 5,000mAh user replaceable battery MINIMUM, Stereo speakers, pogo plug connector (for keyboard cover). power and volume buttons. dedicated camera button, front facing camera.magnets to hold keyboard or other cover, magnet sensor to detect when cover closed to sleep the device. multiple size options 10.1" and 14" screens (same internal electronics just different case and screen.)

    Keyboard Cover:

    Keyboard Cover with Fingerprint Recognition (like for the MS Surface) for 14" and basic keyboard cover for 10.1"

    Desk Dock:

    2 x USB-C 3.1 gen 2 connectors (capable of power, multi Display, Data, Audio), 2 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 connectors. 2+ x USB 2.0 connectors 3.5mm audio Jack, 3.5mm Mic Jack. HDMI / DisplayPort, connectors. Wired Ethernet 1GB.

    Phone Dock:

    to allow convergence. same specs as Desk dock but with a Phone handset addition so calls can be made and taken without undocking the phone / Tablet Dock. (Desk phone handset could be wired or connected by Bluetooth.)

    Software package options.

    Business: Remix Singularity standard base plus apps for VDI, Citrix connectors, VPN. SIP PBX. Office tools. Mail, Calendar, (you know Business User Stuff........)

    Home: Remix Singularity standard base plus TV mode, Games Mode, apps for. social media, mail, pictures, (you know Home User / Millennials type stuff....)

    Guaranteed OS updates unlike ASUS!!!!!!

    Just get it built and advertised properly and people will Buy it.

    ZTE should have done this rather than the eye tracking sticky phone failure.

  16. Astara

    As soon as word "desktop" includes Win7 functionality....

    Gates idea for the desktop was use of 3D-features to allow for better information comprehension. Instead, w/addition of mobile "desktops"[sic], interfaces have to be dumbed down achieving lower-information comprehension. Lower-comprension, that's exactly what I see with Metro-style/icon style desktops that don't provide thumbs and fading (translucent) edges to blur edges and background windows. MS even tried forcing 1-app/desktop like Mac's, which was hugely retarded.

    Some of us want large screen monitors (mine is only *medium* size @30"2560x1600) with 3D-visualizations appropriate for the application to be able to visualize and see results of multiple apps tied together. Sometime, people should look at the difference between Photoshop using advanced graphics vs. not in moving/resizing images... its night & day.

    Expecting the same perf out of atoms. vs. xeons+GPU's is harmful to desktops, yet, that's what MS et al. want to do -- getting us to only expect best that *clouds* can offer -- for the masses that won't be allowed to afford desktops (since they compete w/clouds)...

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