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Google Fuchsia OS: Everything you need to know about the mysterious OS that could replace Android and Chrome OS

Google’s Fuchsia OS is designed to run on embedded devices, smartphones and PCs.

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It’s fascinating how Google, which started as a search provider, has a number of operating systems under its belt. Android, the most widely used mobile OS, boasts a market share of over 87 percent, whereas Apple’s iOS stands at 12.1 percent as per Statista. Then there is Chrome OS developed for laptops, and Wear OS that powers smartwatches. And now, Google is working on a third, and a completely new operating system, called Fuchsia OS.

There have been speculations that Fuchsia OS will replace Android, whereas some reports hint that it will unite Android and Chrome OS. But, at the moment, it is unclear as to what Fuchsia OS is intended for. Google has made the early build available for the Pixelbook, and developers have managed to play around with it to get some insights on what it could be intended for. Here’s everything we know about Google’s mysterious new Fuchsia OS so far.

Google Fuchsia – how it differs from Android and Chrome OS

Fuchsia OS initially appeared on GitHub in August 2016, but Google did not mention anything about it. Just like Android, Fuchsia OS is also open-source, and free-to-use software. Now, while Chrome OS and Android are based on Linux, Fuchsia is based on Google’s own new microkernel called ‘Zircon’ (meaning ‘little kernel’). Previously known as Magenta, Zirkon is intended for embedded systems.

But despite that, Google Fuchsia is scalable and modular, meaning it can run on low-powered IoT devices to minimal-resource devices such as tablets and smartphones, and all the way up to desktop computers. It also gives developers an opportunity to add object modules that you’ll need for each device. Last year in May, Fuchsia developer Travis Geiselbrecht said in IRC discussion, “It’s not a dumping ground of a dead thing that we don’t care about anymore.” Fuchsia is a real project, and Google likely has bigger things planned for it.

Fuchsia development

Fuchsia contains a feature called ‘Ledger’, which will synchronize all your devices together, 9to5Google reports. It is similar to Google Docs and other services, where you can start writing on a smartphone, tweak on tablet, and finish it on a PC. Fuchsia OS supports Flutter, which is a Google-made software development kit (SDK) for existing operating systems.

There is also support or Dart, Google’s own scripting language that is used to power programs such as AdWords. Using the Flutter tool, developers can build high-performance and cross-platform apps in Dart, which will allow one to add backward compatibility for apps in future. What’s more, reports also indicate that Google is considering adding support for Swift programming language, the one that Apple developers use to create iOS apps.

Also, as there’s no difference between Fuchsia for desktop, laptop and mobile, you could just plug in your smartphone into a dock (like Samsung DeX), connect to a bigger screen, and have a desktop-like experience.

The need for new OS

We have been talking about Android fragmentation problem for years, where most smartphones run on older Android versions. It is a result of hundreds of devices from different OEMs, and their preference of using custom Android version, rather than going for stock Android. After Google releases Android updates to OEMs and carriers, they have to tinker the code to ensure it smoothly runs on their devices.

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Also, unlike Pixel devices, Google can’t push direct software updates to devices manufactured by OEMs, as it requires modifications. Project Treble is here to solve these issues, and Google is hoping that it will help OEMs deliver faster updates for their mobile devices.

As Android is based on Open Source Linux, it is prone to vulnerabilities and bugs. Fuchsia’s Zicron kernel is designed to be consistently upgradable, which is not easy with the current Android structure as OEMs have to tweak it before pushing to respective smartphones.

Fuchsia also isolates apps from having direct kernel access, adding an extra layer of security, while also avoiding incompatibility issues after a system upgrade, something that has plagued Android OS for years. A new operating system running on a different platform would solve some of these issues, and Google won’t have to go after making pricey patent licensing deals.

To sum up, Fuchsia OS seems to have a lot of potential, both from security and development standpoints. Also, the fact that it is scalable to run on smartphones, tablets, desktops and laptops is another plus point. Now, whether Google actually replaces Android and Chrome OS with Fuchsia or somehow integrates it into the existing operating systems remains to be seen. With I/O 2018 developer conference taking place between May 8 and May 10, Google may shed some light on Fuchsia OS.

  • Published Date: May 1, 2018 12:04 PM IST