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Google stops supporting RISC-V in Android kernel

TL;DR: Google removes RISC-V support from Android’s Generic Kernel Image, despite recent adoption. Claims Android will still support RISC-V in the future.

Web giant says it hasn’t given up

Google has removed support for the RISC-V CPU architecture from the Generic Kernel Image (GKI) of Android. This change came through a patch merged today.

The patch removes files that added support for RISC-V in Android’s GKI. Google had started accepting RISC-V patches for Android in November 2022 and officially added support in October 2023.

Significant step back.

This means the next release of GKI won’t work with RISC-V chips out of the box. Support will have to be added back by other developers, which is uncommon.

Impact on RISC-V adoption in Android unclear

There are no RISC-V smartphones yet, so it won’t immediately affect phone makers. However, removing GKI support doesn’t seem helpful for adopting the open-source CPU architecture.

Google says this isn’t the end for RISC-V on Android. They state, “Android will continue to support RISC-V. Due to the rapid rate of iteration, we are not ready to provide a single supported image for all vendors.”

This suggests Google believes RISC-V support in Android is worthwhile, but not ready for widespread use.

Odd timing

The move is oddly timed, as Qualcomm plans to use RISC-V CPUs with Google’s Wear OS for future wearables. The effort to add RISC-V support for Wear OS would likely carry over to Android.

We’ve asked Google for further comment on why they removed RISC-V support in GKI.

In other news, the RISC-V community released its Boot and Runtime Services Specification. This aims to create a common platform for OSes and hypervisors to start and manage a system.


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