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How will Project Mainline for Android devices help mobile IT?

Project Mainline promises to make the Android update process more segmented. This new structure allows IT to push out critical updates without risking OS compatibility issues.

IT professionals who manage Google Android devices often encounter issues due to the diversity of the Android ecosystem.

Android OS is an open source project, so each smartphone OEM that supports Android is able to tweak the code to better suit its devices. This creates headaches for IT admins, because they have to keep all Android devices updated to the same version of base Android.

IT professionals who manage many different OEMs' devices will find this task to be especially difficult. To address this issue, Google Android has announced Project Mainline.

How does Project Mainline work?

The goal of Project Mainline is to update core components of Android OS on various OEMs' products without getting the OEMs involved. These core components are divided into three categories: security, privacy and consistency. This will allow mobile device admins to push out the most crucial updates, especially critical security patches, as soon as they are released.

The goal of Project Mainline is to update core components of Android OS on various OEMs' products without getting the OEMs involved.

The process is much more consistent with how modern OS updates work, such as Windows 10 and macOS. In the past, mobile admins had to wait until the OEMs pushed the device-specific version of the updated OS.

To accomplish this, Project Mainline takes the complete Android OS and makes it modular. This means IT no longer has to update the complete OS to make changes; it can instead apply the desired updates to each subsystem individually. Each component can stand on its own from an update perspective, so a minor tweak does not mandate a complete OS reload.

Project Mainline enables IT to update OS components via the Google Play Store, either manually or automatically. Once the device downloads the update, it implements the update in the OS through a built-in mechanism of file decoding and installation procedures. It's an intelligent system that checks the code to validate its security, ensures the update loads to the right components and ensures IT can even roll back the update if a problem occurs.

The core components of Project Mainline will be available in Android Q later this year. That will leave the majority of older Android devices out of the loop. But, moving forward, it should be much easier for IT professionals to update critical components on their devices, even if they are not updating their entire fleet of phones. Further, it will eliminate the delay in pushing out security updates, which could be the difference between a data breach and a secure mobile fleet.

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