Google is already the brains behind the Android platform that powers smartphones and tablets, plus ChromeOS that runs on Chromebooks, but another operating system is in development by the search giant, and its developer portal has just gone live. Its name is Google Fuchsia, and we take a look at what it is and how we might all be using it in the future.
(Android Q is also in development at Google, expected to arrive in August.)
Why does Google need a third operating system?
Judging by the details available about Fuchsia, it seems that the new platform is designed to work a bit differently to its siblings - and it's actually not intended to replace them, at least not right now.
"We’re looking at what a new take on an operating system could be like. And so I know out there people are getting pretty excited saying, ‘Oh this is the new Android,’ or, ‘This is the new Chrome OS … Fuchsia is really not about that. Fuchsia is about just pushing the state of the art in terms of operating systems and things that we learn from Fuchsia we can incorporate into other products," said the company.
Whereas Android and ChromeOS are built on the Linux kernel, Fuchsia instead has it underpinnings in the Zircon microkernel.
This gives us a clue to its purpose, as the Fuchsia documentation states that Zircon is a branch from the LK kernel which is ‘designed for small systems typically used in embedded applications… Such systems often have a very limited amount of ram, a fixed set of peripherals and a bounded set of tasks.’
This means Fuchsia could be a solid candidate for small devices such as smart home, security, or general Internet of Things gadgets.
There are those who think it could be the larval stage of something bigger though, with speculation beginning to build that it could eventually replace Android itself.
These theories are given credence by reading further down the documentation provided on Fuchsia, where it states ‘Zircon targets modern phones and modern personal computers with fast processors, non-trivial amounts of ram with arbitrary peripherals doing open ended computation.’
What devices will Google Fuchsia run on?
At the moment this remains something of a mystery. As we stated above, the smart money is on IoT devices, as Android and ChromeOS are already firmly established on their relevant platforms. But recent developments have shown that Fuchsia could be more capable than first thought.
When the initial build of the operating system appeared on the developer resource site GitHub back in 2016, it did so without fanfare, and Google has made little in the way of comment about it ever since.
The aim of Google’s new operating system was made even more curious in January 2018 when Ars Technica managed to get Fuchsia up and running on one of Google’s Pixelbooks. Then in November 2018, Huawei began testing Fuchsia on the Honor Play.
While things remain very basic, it did reveal that Fuchsia has a clean and modern looking UI, can adapt to laptops or mobile phones, and is intended to run apps that you would normally associate with those sort of devices.
Since then we've learned that Fuchsia will indeed run Android apps, a suspicion that has been confirmed by a change in the Android Open Source Project as revealed by 9to5Google.
Having a new Google OS running without the help of Linux is a big deal, and if the intention is for Fuchsia to eventually become the platform of choice for mobile devices it would certainly allow Google to rid itself of a variety of legacy issues that comes with Android.
Of course, as a virgin OS it would undoubtedly arrive with a whole bunch of new issues that would need to be ironed out, but that’s true of any new platform.
So when will Fuchsia be on my phone?
It doesn’t take a particularly brave tech publication to state that Fuchsia won’t be arriving any time soon. With a couple of years development time under its belt, it still remains in the early stages. But, with a company the size of Google putting its resources behind the emergent OS, it might not take the five years that produced the first version of Android.
As always, we’ll keep updating this article as new details emerge, so that you can keep your eyes firmly fixed on the Fuchsia.
Sorry. We just couldn’t resist.