Over the years, one of the major issues for the Android OS is device fragmentation. The Linux kernel and Android version present on a device can have a serious impact on device security and usability. With Project Treble from Google, the company hopes to improve Android's update lifecycle.
Project Treble team member Iliyan Malchev spoke at the Linaro Connect San Francisco 2017 and explained what the group is attempting to do for Android, and what they have accomplished thus far. He explained that starting with the Linux kernel 4.4, the Linux Foundation has agreed to extend the support life of the Linux Long-Term Support (LTS) kernel branch from two years, to six.
This will have a tremendous impact on how easy manufactures will be able to provide security updates on devices with old software. OEMs will no longer be required to back-port security patches from newer versions of the Linux kernel into the kernel version running on their devices because the patches will still be accessible.
Prior to this change, once a device was on the market, the long-term support life cycle for the kernel version it was built on would be close to expiration. Even though LTS would last for two years, it would take about that long to transition from the beginning stages of the kernel-specific driver development for a SoC, to the point where devices using the SoC were ready for release.
This will help significantly improve Android's present security update woes and provide support for IoT devices in the future. If it is easier for manufacturers to support their devices, they are more likely extend their support life even further. It also benefits the ROM development community because it will allow developers to update older units running legacy versions of Android with secure kernel versions for longer periods of time.