AT A TIME when we're spending so much of our energy moaning about a certain operating system, it's nice to be able to say something positive rather than just tell you what not to buy.
Enter Remix OS, the answer to a problem that even Google has repeatedly failed to solve: how to bring the overwhelming popularity of Android to the desktop.
We've mentioned Remix in passing almost every week since we first heard about it, but recently we got the chance to have coffee with the team behind what could be the most important new OS for years.
The Googletron has already had two stabs at creating a desktop OS. The first is, of course, Chrome OS which is not without its charms but is a glorified browser.
The second came with the Pixel C, the first Android convertible machine released under Google branding. Generally, the feeling is that the hardware was let down by the software.
The forthcoming Android N has have multi-window control, but it's said to be a bit of a car crash at this experimental stage.
Then, late last year, we became aware of a Kickstarter project for a device called the Remix Mini. It had the look of a giant lozenge, but at the retail price of just 70 quid it was a baseline computer with the potential to bring Android to the desktop for everyone.
The brainchild of Jide, a team founded by three former Googlers, the device runs Remix OS, a fork of the Android system (itself a fork of Linux) which manages to offer full (well, there are always exceptions, but 95 percent) compatibility with Android apps, and yet brings mouse, keyboard, taskbar, start menu and cursor.
It was shit off a shovel and love at first sight. We discovered that Remix had been quietly building its OS for a while, and fans of Chinese tablets (fans of obscure trainers are known as 'sneaker pimps' so let's call them 'droid pimps') had already seen what it could do, with products like the Teclast X98 capable of offering Remix OS and Windows 10 on the same device.
Speaking to the INQUIRER, co-founder David Ko explained: "We created Remix OS to take Android to another level through productivity. We believe Android has the strongest ecosystem and we aim to take it to its next evolutionary phase by developing it to be optimised in the PC environment to bring to reality the concept of Android PCs.
"This way, Android can truly fulfil its potential to become the future of operating systems."
Remix has its own convertible already, the Remix Ultra Tablet, a gorgeous beast that flaunts its similarity to Microsoft's Surface as a reminder of what a good alternative to Windows looks like.
There are two really noticeable things about Remix OS. The first is that it's hauntingly familiar, the second that it's extremely light, meaning that it is capable of running at speeds that Windows could only dream of.
It's not without its faults, and it should be emphasised that it's still in beta, but it's the Holy Grail already for those of us looking for an exit strategy from Windows.
So, of course, the next logical step was to release it as an operating system in its own right. Remix OS has been made available to anyone running an Intel chipped PC thanks to a partnership with Android-x86, a team that has led the charge to port Android in its original form for several years.
It's designed to dual boot, and what you'll immediately notice if you install it on an old PC is that it's incredibly responsive thanks to the lower memory footprint.
The other option is to create a bootable USB stick, which means that you can carry your entire OS around with you and use it on any compatible machine which you see fit. And that's just a little bit brilliant.
As well as its value to us in the Western world, it also makes Remix a powerful ally for the developing world, where kids who can't necessarily afford a computer of their own can run apps and games in their own environment, even when there's a limited number of machines available that are, perhaps, clunkier than Windows 10 would like.
This is reflected in the work that Jide is doing to bring Remix OS to school kids in Africa.
Ko continued: "First of all, Remix OS is free for licensing and free for end users to download. In developing markets, Remix OS has the dynamic potential to empower folks to change societies by making modern technology and access to information affordable.
"This will accelerate the next billion to get online where they can tap into the world of information and digital markets on the internet that can positively affect lives everywhere."
So what's next for the project? Jide sees its main market in developing countries, but there's an awful lot to appeal to users around the world.
Remix is set to improve with the first build based on Android 6.0 Marshallow due in the coming months. In addition, we were given a look at the prototype for the stunning successor to the Ultra Tablet, which is a high-end machine by any standards full of sleek lines and elegant curves along with some seriously souped up specs. It was shown at CES this year, but is yet to go into production.
Ko told us: "We will continue to innovate unique computing solutions while we work on exciting hardware partnerships that will enable Remix OS to bring affordable Android PCs to more markets and people than we can reach just by ourselves.
"We also continually keep an ear to our community of users so we can continue to build the future of Android PCs together. We buy into the quote: 'If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.' We want to go far."
On the software side, Jide is working with partners to bring bespoke versions of key apps that use the extra power of that windowed environment. Jide wouldn't identify its launch partners, but we'd imagine that an office suite of some kind will be in there somewhere.
That said, if you just can't bear to be parted from Bill altogether, the Microsoft Office apps for Android come preinstalled on the Remix Mini and Ultratablet and work like a charm.
It seems strange to us that it has taken a third party to succeed where Google has failed so far, but that's exactly what has happened. It's got multi-window banged to rights but because it's Android, it has an enviable ecosystem of millions of apps and games.
Ko added: "We are working on migrating Remix OS to Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) as we speak and have other exciting things to share when the time is right. Stay tuned to Jide.com and our digital communication channels for news and updates on the latest with Remix OS and Jide Technology."
But more than that, Jide is passionate about Remix OS, and it shows. The team is working hard to make something genuinely new and innovative, yet comfortable and familiar, and bring it to the people.
And isn't that exactly what computing should be about? µ
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