Here’s a bit of unexpected Friday news: Google is building a completely new operating system. As in, not just an upgrade to Android or Chrome OS, but instead, a new system that’s not derived from the Linux kernel.
It’s called Fuchsia. While Google hasn’t officially announced anything about the OS, it released details about the project on GitHub with the cryptic description “Pink + Purple == Fuchsia (a new Operating System).”
A page has surfaced on code-sharing GitHub about the new OS, called – for now, at least – Fuchsia.
It’s not based on Android, the Californian technology company’s mobile operating system used in billions of smartphones around the world, nor does it build upon the Linux kernel.]
Meanwhile, Dart is the main programming language and Flutter support indicates that the OS will likely use Material Design for its user interface.
That doesn’t necessarily indicate Google has plans for Fuchsia beyond IoT devices; with the company creating more IoT hardware like OnHub and Google Home, it might simply want a lighter OS that can work for any future hardware products. Still, the ability to scale up remains exciting, especially as the line between Android and ChromeOS becomes increasingly blurred.
As for why Google has remained so quiet about the OS so far: Brian Swetland – a senior Engineer at Google who has worked on Android and the T-mobile Sidekick’s OS – mentions that the decision was made to build the OS open source from the beginning, implying that some details are yet to be finalized.
“Things will eventually be public, documented and announced, just not yet,” said another person. Google did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
We then come to the billion-dollar-question: What is Fuchsia actually for?
Short answer: We don’t know, but there is already plenty of speculation.
Tech blog Android Police, which was one of the first to report on the existence of the OS, thinks it will have potential applications in the internet of things. Linux (and Android) isn’t ideal for a lot of use-cases that don’t involve traditional computers; as “the internet of things” becomes more and more common, it makes sense that Google would make a play with its own operating system, just like it did (with great success) in mobile.
It is worth noting, that Fuchsia isn’t limited to the IoT: Android Police took a look at the OS’s documentation, and noticed that its “Magenta” kernel is designed to work on everything to “embedded devices” to mobile devices and desktop computers.
Some users on Hacker News (with little hard evidence) are guessing that it might be used for augmented reality. “You want an RTOS for loss and predictable latency. And current GUIs aren’t really suited to 3D environments you can walk around inside,” ansible speculates. “This is Google’s next Android, with a low latency rendering pipeline for the next generation of mobile devices.”
It’s also possible that Google will use it to replace and unify Android and Chrome OS, the company’s two operating systems that run on mobile and laptops respectively. Over at PC World, Nick Mediati explores this idea: “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).”
Fuchsia could be nothing, an interesting project from Google employees that never makes it to a commercial release.
Or it could be the seeds of Google’s next major play: A unification of its existing operating systems and a push into the next generation of computing platforms.
One thing we know for sure is that it’s worth watching closely.