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I know that all Android apps, as far as I know, are compiled to Java bytecode, turned into dex code (for the Dalvik Virtual Machine), and then executed with respect to whatever ABI is compatible between the VM and its linking/exposure.

However, after booting Android, I always wondered if the desktop itself was also a Dalvik executable, or if it's not running on the virtual machine as all other apps do?

What do I mean by "desktop"? I mean the home screen:

enter image description here

Could anyone clarify this/does anyone know this? Not the widgets, backgrounds, etc., but the essence of the whole GUI/home screen/desktop. Is it an "app" that runs on Dalvik, like all others supposedly do, or is it a system process/separate process running outside of the virtual machine?

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What you describe as "desktop", and the screenshot shows, is called by different names. Mostly it listens on the names Launcher and Homescreen, depending on the aspect referred to. And yes, it's an app that ships with its own .apk file, as all its "replacements" (e.g. Apex Launcher, GoLauncher, or Holo Launcher – to name some) do.

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