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Google Fuchsia: Google’s Next-Generation Capability Boosted Operating System

Google and surprises often go hand in hand. So, when Google’s new operating system (OS) named Fuchsia made its first appearance in GitHub back in August 2016 there was a lot of conjecture in the technology circles. But three years have waned since, and we are still waiting for any formal Google announcement on the release of this state-of-the-art OS. As years have passed, speculations around Fuchsia have grown. It makes sense then to investigate and clear the air.

What is so special about Fuchsia?

Fuchsia gets its name from a hybrid color, between Pink and Purple, of the same name. Google wants to bring multiple smart devices under a uniform OS through Fuchsia. Over the years, Google has developed state-of-the-art operating systems for mobile devices (Android) as well as the web (Chrome OS). However, standing in the present era users demand a more sophisticated OS that can run uniformly on universal devices.

Google has always been quick in understanding their user’s requirements and that is why they have been quietly developing a sophisticated OS. Much like AOSP, Fuchsia is also an open-source OS, the difference lies in its capability to run on all types of devices - from smart home gadgets to laptops and mobile devices. This modular, capability-based operating system runs on modern 64-bit Intel and ARM processors.

Fuchsia’s Technology Stack

Unlike Android and Chrome OS, Google Fuchsia is not Linux based, it rather runs on Google’s new microkernel called “Zircon” (meaning “little kernel”). Zircon, which was previously known as Magenta, is intended for embedded systems (systems that perform a single job as a part of a larger mechanism). Zircon was developed by Travis Geiselbrecht, who also created the Kernel OS which powers Haiku OS.

Zircon is coded in C++, instead of C which is used to write Linux kernels. Essentially, this microkernel manages software-hardware interactions better and offers more efficiency in the utilization of resources such as processing power and network speeds. Unlike a Linux kernel, Zircon will be updated regularly, so that devices are instantly compatible with the latest updates. Google has even designed an update system named Amber and embedded it in Fuchsia OS. Amber will not only update system packages and installed applications but also the new microkernel and the bootloader.

Fuchsia is mainly written in Google’s brainchild language - Dart, with some portions done in Rust, Go, Python, C++, etc. This is in contrast to Android which is written almost entirely in Java.

Benefits of Fuchsia

  • All under one OS: According to some sources, Fuchsia is built to create a user-friendly environment. Through Fuchsia, Google wants to create an operating system that would work seamlessly across all electronic devices (such as smartphones, smart speakers, wearables, laptops, computers, tablets & more) under one OS.
  • Enhanced User Experience: Current Android OS has certain limitations while working on personal devices and gadgets. Lack of cross-device uniformity is hampering user experience, and this needs to be addressed soon. Through the development of Fuchsia, the engineering team at Google wants to overcome the existing limitations of Android OS.
  • Better Features: Google has put together a team of 100 expert engineers to develop the new OS - Fuchsia. It is being designed to work better with voice interactions, as well as offering more robust and more frequent security updates. This OS is expected to look the same across a range of devices, from laptops to smartphones and everything in between. This cross-device OS will be independent of hardware specifications, providing a similar experience across all devices.
  • Frequent Updates: Timely updates are vital for good user experiences. However, before the release of Treble (a patch to the latest Linux kernel), Android was heavily reliant on the OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturer) putting in their hard work to update the facets of internal hardware, which most manufacturers ignored. Even after Treble, the problem has continued to plague Android users. Fuchsia OS avoids this pitfall by using a custom kernel, Zircon, which is designed to be more consistently upgradeable. To enable this, few applications are isolated from direct kernel access. This will provide an extra layer of security and prevent those applications from being incompatible after a system upgrade; an issue that has plagued the Android before.
  • Voice-based Experience: Another major reason for choosing infant Fuchsia over an amended version of Android is that the new OS will be focused on interactions that leverage a voice-based experience, instead of one relying upon touch. This means Fuchsia will be suitable for devices with displays that may or may not support a touch interface.
  • Swift Language Support: According to reports, Google may also provide support for Swift language in Fuchsia, making it apt for developing applications for Apple platforms as well.

Future of Fuchsia

Fuchsia OS is a grand vision of Google, whose work is still in progress. Fuchsia’s present mobile UI (called Armadillo) and its desktop version (known as “Capybara”), are still in their embryonic stages. A media report even suggests that Google could scrape this project anytime if Fuchsia is not able to provide the kind of cross-device experience anticipated. And that maybe one of the reasons why Google has refrained from announcing any release date for this OS. Recently, Google launched a website for Fuchsia developers. For now, we can just hope that this exciting OS is launched in the coming years and provides a smoother development experience for us and a better user experience for the end-users.