It wouldn’t be a “normal” year without Google killing off a service or platform. Right on cue, the search giant announced that Android Things, a heavily stripped-down, Android-based operating system for Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices, will shut down early next year.
The writing was on the wall, so today’s news isn’t much of a surprise. Back in February of 2019, Google announced it would re-focus Android Things to help OEMs build smart speakers and smart displays. At the time, the company said it would continue to support hobbyist experimentation with the OS. “Over the past year, Google has worked closely with partners to create consumer products powered by Android Things with the Google Assistant built-in. Given the successes we have seen with our partners in smart speakers and smart displays, we are refocusing Android Things as a platform for OEM partners to build devices in those categories moving forward,” Google said back in 2019.
However, a new FAQ page (via ArsTechnica) reveals Google will end all non-commercial use of the Android Things platform. Starting January 5, 2021, the Android Things console will stop supporting new projects, and starting January 5, 2022, the Android Things console will be turned down for all existing projects. Soon, the only products that can run Android Things will be the ones built on commercial hardware SoMs (system-on-modules) from vendors like NXP, Qualcomm, and MediaTek, but these are “only available to specific OEM partners building smart speakers and smart displays.”
Google did do some things right with Android Things. When it was announced, Google adopted an approach that prevented OEMs from modeling the OS and said updates would be centrally distributed by Google roughly every three years. But the platform proved to be too unpopular for the IoT world, and soon Google had moved on. That being said, Google has other IoT platforms, including Google Smart Home. But it’s an ignominious end to a platform that never really took off.