Google’s mysterious Fuchsia OS has been under development for years. Industry experts speculate the search engine giant could be planning to replace Android and Chrome OS with Fuchsia OS in the future. Google has finally started revealing small tidbits about its project this year. After talking about it at the I/O developer conference in May, Google has launched the developer site for Fuchsia OS.
The project has been listed on GitHub since 2016, and people have been playing around with the browser-based live demo for quite a while. Now Google has made the Fuchsia.dev site live for everyone. Earlier this year, the search engine giant hired an Apple engineer to help it build the new operating system.
According to the developer site, Fuchsia OS is an “open-source operating system” similar to Android Open Source Project (AOSP). Google emphasized that “Fuchsia is not Linux.” It’s a “modular, capability-based operating system.” The source documentation page is as cryptic as it could be with “Pink + Purple == Fuchsia (a new Operating System).”
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The Fuchsia OS developer site itself is bare bones with limited details. It doesn’t mention Google’s direct involvement in the project anywhere except on the Terms and Privacy pages. Of course, the site’s ICANN registration and Material Design theme also confirm that it’s a Google project.
The site has a Getting Started guide and instructions to build and run apps on the operating system. There is also a glossary and a system documentation page to show you how Fuchsia works. The OS is modular in nature. The search engine giant has separated Fuchsia OS’s file system support from the kernel, making it easier to update and replace file systems whenever needed.
Developers interested in trying out Fuchsia should know that the software is supported on Acer Swift Alpha 12, Google Pixelbook, and Intel NUC. They could also run it on unsupported devices, but it would require a lot of heavy lifting.
Fuchsia OS is built on Google’s all-new microkernel Zircon, which was previously known as “Magenta.” Most of the existing operating systems in the market including Windows, Android, iOS, and macOS are built on either Unix, Linux, or Windows kernel at the core. By using the Zircon microkernel, Google wants to have Fuchsia OS built on its own core rather than Linux or other technologies that it didn’t create.
Zircon is mostly written in C++, and the UI of the OS is based on Flutter. For the uninitiated, Flutter is Google’s portable UI toolkit to build “natively-compiled applications for mobile, web, and desktop from a single codebase.” The Fuchsia OS is believed to offer compatibility to run legacy apps built on both Android and Chrome OS. According to Forbes, it is designed to ” run on anything from 32-bit or 64-bit ARM cores to 64-bit X86 processors.”
The Zircon microkernel was designed to scale to any app from embedded Real-Time Operating Systems (RTOS) to all types of mobile and desktop devices. That’s why people speculate that it could be the future of Android and Chrome OS. The Fuchsia OS could run on smartphones, computers, wearable devices, and smart home gadgets. According to the rumor mill, the Google Nest Hub home speaker is said to be one of the test devices for Fuchsia.
At the I/O 2019 developer conference, Google’s SVP of Android and Chrome, Hiroshi Lockheimer told developers that Fuchsia should not be seen as a replacement to any existing OS. It’s more of a playground for future technologies.
During a lie recording of The Vergecast, Hiroshi Lockheimer said that Fuchsia was still in an experimental stage. “We’re looking at what a new take on an operating system could be like.” The project is about “pushing the state of the art” in terms of operating systems. Google could incorporate the lessons from the project into other products as well.
He added that part of the experiment was to see how the new OS works with different form factors. It’s a clear indication that the Fuchsia OS could run devices with a wide range of form factors ranging from wearables, smart home devices, AR and VR headsets, and more. “Fuchsia may be optimized for certain other form factors as well” besides smartphones and computers, said Lockheimer.
As the Internet of Things continues to gain more popularity around the world, there will be more and more devices that would need an operating system. Fuchsia OS could be the operating system for all those devices.