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Meet Asteroid, a drop-in Linux upgrade for your unloved smartwatch

Hickory dickory Docker, the containers ran on the clock... er

Asteroid, a Linux-based open-source wearable OS, formally reached a big milestone this week, and it might give Tizen a run for Samsung's money.

Developed as a hobby by French Linux developer Florent Revest, Asteroid runs on a number of smartwatches that launched with Wear OS, formerly Android Wear. Considerable progress has been made in less than 18 months since the first code drop, spawning the crowdsourced hardware project ConnectWatch. Connect takes a nanoSIM and can deliver up to four days battery life.

Even in its early incarnation, Asteroid OS looked slick and mature, as you can see from this January video preview (YouTube). Turn down the volume before hitting play on this, the official launch video:

Youtube Video

Privacy has been a design consideration. And because it's actually a rich Linux, you can run Docker.

Yes, Docker on your smartwatch.

Hope watchsprings eternal

Asteroid is not the first Linux to go on the wrist. The Linux Foundation's Tizen broke through to the mass market, thanks to the mighty Samsung, who put it in its Gear smartwatches. Tizen has a complex history, emerging from the wreckage of Nokia and Intel's Meego and Samsung's Bada. It's fully open source – the last code drop was November – with a rich and well-supported toolchain. But does anyone remember Adafruit's Flora or Gemma, or Zwear?

Asteroid 1.0 screenshots

Asteroid 1.0. Click to enlarge

The market isn't promising, you might think, for interesting work to be done in smartwatches. But perversely, the collapse of the wearables "platform war" might just help highly focused projects that use Asteroid as a base. For years, analysts and the media reported on smartwatches as a platform story, with the winner being predicted to be the one with the most apps. But apps turned out to be a complete dud. Successful wearables today come from Apple, or from fitness-focused vendors like Garmin and Fitbit. Apps are minimal, or hardly used at all. ®

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