How Cornerstone put Android in a tractor

When Onskreen open sourced Cornerstone early in 2012, we had no idea what was going to happen. At the time, Google was using their powerful stick to beat away customers who wanted to include Cornerstone on their devices (read more about this here); and open sourcing the product was the best way of getting the product out to users.

After being open sourced, the first thing we expected to happen, did happen. That is, the mod community took to it and started to make Cornerstone ROMs for some of the most popular devices out on the market.  In fact, when CyanogenMod (the most popular Android ROM) wanted to include Cornerstone in their releases, Google had to publicly declare they would restrict CyanogenMod from including the Play Store if they did this. You can read the thread here. This was exactly what Google was doing to OEMs behind closed doors already, and was the first time I know of that they had to declare it publicly.

But then a funny thing happened. Other companies, releasing Android based non-tablet/phone devices started to adopt Cornerstone also. We saw a few use cases that were really interesting:

  • Qualcomm/Smart TV and St Microelectronics/Set Top Box – Qualcomm with their Android based smart TV platform built to run on their new SnapDragon chip (read more here) and Orly, ST Micro’s Android based set top box both use Cornerstone to provide a richer experience on large TV displays. Integrating video and Android apps to make use of a > 40″ display and lean back living room experience.
  • All-In-One Computer – A can’t-be-named-yet OEM used Cornerstone as the basis for an upcoming AIO computer. The 27″ device would be ridiculous without multi-tasking so users can engage with and monitor various apps at the same time on the huge screen.
  • Tractors – Yep, tractors. They used Cornerstone to upgrade their in machine control system. The built in display is being upgraded from a relic OS to Android so the company can take advantage of modern s/w development practices. However, federal law requires certain information to be displayed at all times. So they are using Cornerstone to enable a mutli-tasked display and split their app development into smaller, functional units rather a monolithic app that was hard to maintain and upgrade.

There were a few larger trends driving adoption:

  • Android as a technology and not ecosystem -Similar to Amazon with the Kindle Fire, these companies are using Android as a basis for technology, and not looking to it as an ecosystem blessed by Google. For them, Android serves as a modern OS with a supported developer environment. Not being concerned with the Google ecosystem, these companies can adopt and modify the OS without concern of the politics around certification.
  • Google TV’s failure – I’m not sure any real consumer has actually ever bought one before. So for the TV products using Android as the OS, they are very much using the OS purely as a technology platform. Once they do that and see the one app at a time UX on a 50″ TV, it begins to look ridiculous and the need for multi-tasking becomes obvious.

It is great to see the product used in ways we never imagined when we built it, and I’m looking forward to seeing these products get to market as well as see how others use Cornerstone in the future.