Google is ambitiously working on developing a new operating system. I’m sure you have a lot of questions in your mind, such as what is it? When is it out? And so forth. Let’s answer them.
What is Google Fuchsia?
The tech world first learned about Fuchsia in August ’16, when an unannounced open source project from Google appeared on GitHub. According to initial inspection by the tech people, it was designed to be a “universal” OS, capable of running on a myriad of devices like- smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, Televisions, intelligent home devices, cars, PCs, and anything that comes under Google’s tech umbrella.
A universal OS is a holy grail for developers, but it hasn’t been made possible yet. Many big tech companies have made attempts, such as Microsoft tried to do it with Windows 10, and one can say that they did make some progress, at least in the sense that some phones have been made that can run it in a stripped-down version. Linux is the closest we’ve come to OSs that run at all levels of consumer hardware. Various Linux kernel flavors are used for Android, Chrome OS, routers and modems, intelligent devices, and tons of industrial software.
But simply getting different hardware to run on vaguely similar software guts isn’t the point. The goal for the big tech companies is to create a single OS that can run the same applications with minimal developmental changes across as wide a range of hardware as possible. This would be beneficial for everyone, from consumers to developers to big tech companies. Not only will it facilitate easy interconnection in consumer-level tech, but it would also attract software developers who want to create applications on multiple platforms efficiently. Also, it would lock the consumers into a single software ecosystem that’s easy to control (and hard to leave for the competition).
It hasn’t been confirmed by Google so far; in fact, they hadn’t said much about this new operating system at all, but it seems like a natural aspiration. That’s bolstered by some built-in cross-platform capabilities with Android and iOS.
How is this new OS related to Android and Chrome?
Well, they are not very closely related. While both Android and Chrome OS use a heavily modified version of the Linux kernel, Fuchsia is powered by Zircon (named after the Zirconium Silicate mineral, it’s a new micro-kernel).
It’s not easy to explain the differences between a conventional OS kernel and a microkernel. Still, you should know that microkernels are built from the ground up for efficiency and flexibility. The concept is not new and was conceived decades ago but was abandoned mainly as computer power, memory, and storage space blossomed in the nineties. Now, with the trend for consumer electronics shifting towards smaller, more efficient, and more portable hardware, Google sees the microkernel architecture as a potential fit for its next-generation OS.
Learning from its lesson with open-source Android (which is now heavily fractured at the consumer level), Google has more or less total control over how Zircon and Fuchsia evolve, both before and after its release.
How will this new OS affect developers?
Fuchsia is in very early stages; it hasn’t reached a point where developers can practically create full apps yet. But when it does, Google doesn’t intend on abandoning Android, not after all the work it has put into it. Fuchsia applications can be written in a variety of popular programming languages using Flutter.
The new software development kit allows applications to be written with maximum compatibility between Fuchsia, Android, and iOS. Not only does that mean that apps can be written on all three platforms with less effort and resources, but it also makes porting existing apps to Fuchsia and supporting all three platforms easy.
The new software development kit is also built around Material Design, the visual design standard of Google at the moment, which it adheres to for all its Android, Chrome OS, and web properties (to a varying degree). It includes support for advanced User Interface elements based on the flexible Vulkan rendering engine, such as volumetric shadows, etc. It’s also capable of some fantastic gaming and media applications, though performance will, of course, depend on the underlying hardware.
Chrome OS is not included in the above compatibility list because Chrome apps are almost entirely web-based. It doesn’t download code and run it locally like most other OSs. But Chrome OS can run Android apps now; the reason Google is allowing that is cause it’s hoping to transition its Play Store infrastructure to at least some entire desktop Android-based apps for Chrome OS.
At that point, if Google can manage to launch this new OS and replace or transition both platforms, it would be an easy adjustment for developers (and thus users) to make.
When Is Fuchsia Coming Out?
Well, tell you the truth: we have no idea. This next-generation OS is in very early stages; even Google probably doesn’t have a fixed roadmap. As mentioned above, Google hasn’t said much about this project except to confirm that it’s a real thing with significant support. Right now, your best source of information on Fuschia is its developer website (officially launched by Google). You can head to the live demo of Fuchsia here at GitHub.
It’s also possible that Google may decide to scrap the project altogether and continue with Android (despite its flaws) and Chrome OS or develop something we haven’t even seen yet. But currently, Fuchsia seems to be the most likely (if distant) successor to Android and possibly Chrome.
From where can you download Fuchsia OS?
There is no compiled version available that can be downloaded and installed on any device. The best you can do is go to https://fuchsia.googlesource.com/fuchsia/+/master/docs/getting_started.md and follow the instruction for building and installing on an emulator or a device. You can install and run it on FEMU (Fuchia Emulator) by following the instruction from https://fuchsia.googlesource.com/fuchsia/+/master/docs/development/run/femu.md. For installing it on a device, use the doc from https://fuchsia.googlesource.com/fuchsia/+/master/docs/development/hardware/paving.md. We recommend trying it on the FEMU emulator.