Fragmentation continues to be a thorn in the side of Android and its proliferating ecosystem, exemplified by just 0.5% of devices running the latest version of Nougat. Unsurprisingly, according to a recent update posted on the Android Developers Blog, device-makers have consistently said that "updating existing devices to a new version of Android is incredibly time consuming and costly." Now. it appears that Google may just try and tackle the problem in the forthcoming Android O operating system.
At present, once source code for a version of Android is published, 'silicon manufacturers' take that code and modify it to run on their hardware before passing it on to device-makers who make further tweaks to suit their hardware. Finally, carriers receive the release for final testing and certification before releasing to their customers. This approach has led to significant code updates for each update to a new Android OS.
In an attempt to emulate what the Compatibility Test Suite (CTS) enabled for app developers in terms of being able to write a single app that would run on countless devices of varying hardware configurations, Project Treble will split out device-specific code from that of the Android OS itself. Through the introduction of a new 'vendor interface", OS upgrades from Android O onwards could be delivered independently of vendor specific code updates. Plus, to ensure forward compatibility, validation of the vendor interface would be provided by a new Vendor Test Suite (VTS).
While many will have to wait for the promised benefits of Project Treble to become reality, those who have already installed the Android O Developer Preview on one of the supported Pixel phones will already be reaping the benefits. The Android development team plans to publish full documentation of Project Treble alongside the launch of Android O this summer.