We’ve already seen smartphone platforms deploy tools to let them run the apps of their competitors: BlackBerry 10 and Jolla’s Sailfish OS offer such Android compatibility layers. Then again, as the open and flexible platform that it is, Android sort of lends itself to such uses – what about something a little more challenging? If we’re talking “most desirable apps,” Android may be neck-and-neck with iOS (if Apple’s not slightly ahead), yet where are all the iOS app interpreters? Before you start scoffing at the idea as a wild fever dream, you may want to check out the work from a team at Columbia University, as they develop their Cider OS compatibility architecture.
Cider is designed to let Android run wholly unmodified iOS apps. It pulls this stunt off thanks to a combination of techniques, including adapting the iOS code to run in the Android kernel (compile-time code adaptation) and an interpretation layer to give iOS apps access to Android libraries and hardware features (diplomatic functions).
The proof is in the pudding, and sure enough: Cider works. It’s not the smoothest experience you’ll ever see, but the fact that it’s working at all is a hair short of mind-blowing. Cider handles both iPad and iPhone apps, and is graceful enough to let users switch between them and native Android apps using the recent apps button.
We wouldn’t hold our breath waiting for a public release of Cider in the near future (if at all), but dammit if we’re not excited at the (even remote) possibility.