The latest buzz from Google seems to be that the search engine giant is working on a lightweight operating system (OS) called Fuchsia. For those who do not know, the Android OS running on many smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S7, Google Nexus 6p, and the HTC 10 is made by Google, and so is the Chrome OS that runs on Chromebooks.
It should also be known that all the operating systems made by Google use the Linux kernel. Linux is also available as an open-source operating system, which is an alternative to Microsoft’s Windows and the macOS. This kernel has been powering most of the Google hardware like smartphones, tablets, laptops, smartwatches, and internet of things (IoT) devices like Google OnHub router and Google Home. However, Linux has traditionally been a full-blown desktop kernel. Therefore, making it unsuitable for embedded systems like car dashboards or GPS units that could typically benefit by using a lightweight operating system. Using the traditional Linux kernel on such systems that need lesser computing power can severely impact performance.
Google is working on it’s on OS called Fuchsia https://t.co/S9D5SP79g0— Digital Bounds (@DigitalBounds) August 14, 2016
Coming back to Fuchsia, it looks like Google is trying to unify the operating system under one single umbrella using a new Magenta kernel, which is meant to power IoT devices. Now, this makes Fuchsia a direct competitor to other embedded OSes like FreeRTOS and ThreadX. The project was uncovered on Google’s own Git project site. Android Police speculates that Fuchsia could replace both Android and Chrome OS in the near future.
“Why is Google quietly developing a brand new OS and kernel, with support for smartphones and PCs, possibly built with Material Design in mind? The most obvious guess, and the most exciting, is that Google hopes to one day replace Chrome OS and Android with Fuchsia. But perhaps Google will treat Fuchsia like Samsung treats Tizen OS; a lightweight OS used on hardware not suited for full-blown Android. Google’s collection of embedded hardware, such as the OnHub router and Google Home, is growing. Perhaps Fuchsia is only being developed for devices like these?”
The readme file — a file that describes in detail about the software — of Fuchsia has only a single line which says “Pink + Purple == Fuchsia (a new Operating System).” Now, while this sentence doesn’t reveal much, Hothardware dug a little deeper into the sub-folders of the actual code and found out that Google’s Fuchsia is set to support both x86 and aarch64, ARM’s 64-bit architecture.
Google Fuchsia also uses uses Google’s own Dart programming language and Flutter for the user interface, which means that it could support Material design used by Android OS. What this essentially means is that Fuchsia can be scaled up easily from running natively on embedded systems to powering smartphones and desktop PCs.
Currently though, Fuchsia is working perfectly fine on Next Unit of Computing (NUC) personal computers using Intel’s Broadwell and Skylake platforms, as reported by a user on Hacker News. However, driver support is still a work in progress, which indicates that hardware like keyboards and mice might not be supported just yet. Interestingly, Fuchsia support for Raspberry Pi 3 board is reportedly coming soon. This should encourage many developers to play with the software much before the actual public announcement of the software, and try out their own use cases for IoT devices.
Whether Fuchsia achieves Google’s vision to unify all its operating systems as one whole entity is still a question that cannot be answered with any certainty. That said, PCWorld’s Nick Mediate speculates the following.
“Fuchsia may rekindle earlier speculation that Google is trying to unify Chrome OS and Android in some way. Last October, reports indicated that Google is planning to merge Chrome OS into Android and would introduce the resulting new operating system in 2017. Google denied that it would kill off Chrome OS shortly thereafter, but that doesn’t rule out the possibility that the company wants to bring the two operating systems closer together.
“One possibility I see is where Google uses Fuchsia instead of Linux as the underpinnings for next-generation versions of Chrome OS and Android. That is, both would use some form of Fuchsia — or the Magenta kernel — as the underlying basis of the two operating systems (as well as the operating system for other Google devices such as the Chromecast).”
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