Android and Chrome OS may be Google’s best-known software ventures, but the company is actually working on a third operating system. It’s called Fuchsia, and when it was first discovered in 2017, it only popped up as a single command line. Now, however, we know a lot more about the operating system.
Fuchsia looks totally different than any other mobile operating system we’ve seen, including Android, but that could be the point.
In contrast to prior Google-developed operating systems such as Chrome OS and Android, which are based on Linux kernels, Fuchsia is based on a new microkernel called “Zircon”.
Media outlets noted that the code post on GitHub suggested Fuchsia’s capability to run on universal devices, including “dash infotainment systems for cars, to embedded devices like traffic lights and digital watches, all the way up to smartphones, tablets and PCs”. The code differs from Android and Chrome OS due to its being based on the “Zircon” kernel (formerly “Magenta”) rather than on the Linux kernel. In May 2017, Fuchsia was updated with a user interface, along with a developer writing that the project was not a “dumping ground of a dead thing”, prompting media speculation about Google’s intentions with the operating system, including the possibility of it replacing Android.
It is distributed as free and open-source software under a mix of software licenses, including BSD 3 clause, MIT, and Apache 2.0.
Fuchsia’s user interface and apps are written with Flutter, a software development kit allowing cross-platform development abilities for Fuchsia, Android and iOS. Flutter produces apps based on Dart, offering apps with high performance that run at 120 frames per second. Flutter also offers a Vulkan-based graphics rendering engine called “Escher”, with specific support for “Volumetric soft shadows”, an element that Ars Technica wrote “seems custom-built to run Google’s shadow-heavy ‘Material Design’ interface guidelines”. This OS is even used in the driverless car by Google.
Due to the Flutter software development kit offering cross-platform opportunities, users are able to install parts of Fuchsia on Android devices.
Ars Technica was impressed with the progress, noting that things were now working, and was especially pleased by the hardware support. One of the positive surprises was the support for multiple mouse pointers.
A special version of Android Runtime for Fuchsia will be developed. It will run on machines with this system from a FAR file, the equivalent of the Android APK.
Google Fuchsia centers on the idea of being able to do whatever you want on whatever device you have handy. We can see this approach in some recent moves by Google – like bringing Android Messages and a VR video editor to a broad range of devices.