Myriad, one of the founding members of the Open Handset Allience and leading provider of application and UI solutions, recently announced that they're working on a virtualization environment similar to the Dalvik virtual machine implemented in Froyo to run Android apps under different OSes. This was only a few weeks after rumors that Blackberry was working on a similar feature to give their line of smartphones a welcome boost in apps. Read on for details and a demo video of Intel/Nokia's Meego platform running Android apps.
The beauty of Android has always been that any hardware manufacturer could implement the OS into its devices for free and serve it to users without extensive R&D costs and a major time investment. Also, Android is built around a virtual machine environment where apps are run as stand-alone instances optimized for low resource consumption to allow multiple apps to run at the same time while allowing for great battery life - in short, Android is build for multi-tasking. With Froyo 2.2, Android added the just-in-time compiler to Dalvik to make apps run even faster - and it shows.
But because of the way that Android is build, it's possible to port apps to other devices running a Dalvik-like virtual environment, as long as it's tweaked and deeply integrated into the OS. And this is where Blackberry and Myriad come in. The latter just demonstrated that Meego, a platform that's good on paper and has shown some potential inside Nokia's N900 phone, but has virtually no apps and a limited developer community, can handle Android apps. It's still an early build, but as you can see in the video below, it seems to be moving at a good pace.
There are just two things I see problems with. First, the control buttons integrated into Android phones have to be displayed on-screen to be able to use apps properly. It may be possible to use buttons already available on handsets for certain tasks, but since the phones aren't build with Android in mind, you'd pretty much always be loosing screen real estate and creating a sub-par user experience. Second, there is no way in hell Google is going to allow non-Android phones access to the market and I have doubts that hackers would be able to give it access to system memory to be able to install apps properly and keep track of their state anyway. If you do find yourself trying to install Android apps a few months down the line on a non-Android device, do give AndroidPIT's own market app a try.
Apart from those not so minor issues (that may well be solved by the time of launch), Myriad brings a welcome product to both Android and non-Android devices. Similarly, if RIM brings Android apps to Blackberry, users forced to use them for work will be quite happy to have access to considerably more and better apps, I'm sure. Also, by expanding the user base of Android apps, this may, in fact, attract more Android developers and help expand the app offering that's already out there. Check the video below for more: