A Guide to Google Fuchsia

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Google is semi-secretly developing a new OS that could replace both Android and Chrome. Getty Images 

Fuchsia is a new operating system from Google that could one day replace both Chrome and Android. With Fuchsia, you would never need to learn multiple operating systems, nor deal with the quirks of transferring data and services across devices.

As designed, Fuchsia works equally well with laptops, tablets, smartphones, "smart" devices like a Nest thermostat, for example, even car infotainment systems. Not surprisingly, Google is being tight-lipped about this potentially revolutionary OS.

What Is Google Fuchsia

Though still early days, there are already four notable aspects to Fuchsia:   

  1. It is an operating system designed to run on any device. Unlike, say, iOS and Mac OS, or Android and Chrome, Google Fuchsia would operate similarly on a laptop, tablet, smartphone, or smart device. The screen can be manipulated using touchscreen, trackpad, or keyboard.
  2. Fuchsia will support apps but, not surprisingly, its clean, stripped-down UI is presently centered around all-things Google. This means not just search and maps, for example, but Google Now and Google Assistant–services designed to know you and provide helpful information before you need to ask. 
  3. Fuchsia already supports multitasking, which only came to Android in 2016. Fuchsia also supports apps, which are written using the company's "Flutter" SDK (software development kit). Just like Android apps, Fuchsia apps would still follow Google's "Material Design" interface guidelines. 
  4. Fuchsia is 100% Google. Unlike Chrome and Android, which are based on Linux kernels, Fuchsia is based on Google's homegrown kernel, Zircon. A kernel is the core of an operating system. 

    The Potential Of Google Fuchsia

    Right now, Fuchsia is more promise than reality. Google hasn't even formally announced the new operating system. Rather, it was discovered after the search engine giant published the code to GitHub in late 2016. 

    That said, the promise of Fuchsia is immense: one operating system running on any device, and which is fully personalized to that user–thanks to Google's intimate knowledge of all of us. Having Fuchsia on your laptop and smartphone might offer some benefit over switching between Chrome and Android, that's obvious. But now imagine a tablet at the brew pub, also running on Fuchsia, and which already which knows your likes and dislikes. Too many beers? Get inside that driverless Uber, and its screen, running on Fuchsia, calls up that movie you only made it half-way through last night on your TV at home. There's nothing new for you to learn, and no added steps to retrieve your data. In theory, any screen in the world is yours, at least for a time. 

    If you're a developer, the opportunity to get your app on any screen, and offer services personalized to each user, all using the same platform, is huge. Billions of users can be supported using a single platform. You no longer need multiple experts for multiple operating systems. Plus, with Google having full control over the OS, in theory the search engine giant should be able to push out updates to any Fuchsia device. Unlike with Android, for example, where a carrier or device maker may never update the OS. 

    Not Ready For Prime Time

    Though optimized for newer, more powerful processors, Fuchsia is still not yet ready for general public use, and probably won't be for a few years. Just last May, VP of engineering for Android Dave Burke labelled Fuchsia "an early stage experimental project. And only in the past few weeks have techies been able to get the code running on Google's Pixelbook. But it is the potential of Fuchsia that's already driving developer interest. Want to test it yourself? You can grab the code at fuchsia.googlesource.com, where it's currently made available to anyone under open-source licensing.

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