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Google Fuchsia: What is it and which devices run it?
Google has been working on this open-source operating system since the summer of 2016. At first, we thought Fuchsia was for Internet of Things (IoT) devices. We now know it can also power Chromebooks and smartphones.
Is it a replacement for Android and Chrome OS? Good question. It’s not clear what Google plans for it. We do know it runs on Google’s high-end, Chrome-OS powered Pixelbook. You can also install it on Acer Switch 12 and Intel NUC and, eventually, on a Raspberry Pi 3.
This isn’t even alpha software. It’s still a science experiment.
Unfortunately, on my Pixelbook, or any other platform, you can’t do much with it. For now, the only thing it does on my Pixelbook is show the time. Oh, there’s a real operating system there, but it has barely any functionality. This isn’t even alpha software. It’s still a science experiment.
Fuchsia developer Travis Geiselbrecht said in a Fuchsia IRC discussion that Fuchsia isn’t “a toy thing.” He added that it’s not a 20-percent project — and “it’s not a dumping ground of a dead thing that we don’t care about anymore.” A 20-percent project is when Google developers work on something because it interests them rather than because it’s part of their job.
Google Fuchsia: What’s happening under the hood?
Now that we have a look at the project’s documentation, we know more about what’s happening under Fuchsia’s hood.
First, it’s built on the Zircon micro-kernel. Besides the microkernel, it includes a small set of userspace services, drivers, and libraries. These are used to boot the system, talk to hardware, load userspace processes and run them, and not much more. The kernel manages several different Object types. Those that are directly accessible via system calls are C++ classes. Fuchsia builds on top of this foundation.
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Objects are an important concept. Fuchsia is a modular operating system. This implies you’ll be able to use it on both low-powered, minimal-resource devices all the way up to PCs. You simply add the object modules you’ll need for each device.
We also know, since it will support a subset of Portable Operating System Interface (POSIX) conventions, from a developer’s viewpoint, it will look like Unix/Linux. For all the objections about POSIX, it’s held up well over the years.
Google Fuchsia: What’s all this for?
The most popular theory is to “replace Android and Chrome OS.” No. Just no.
Both operating systems are popular with users and developers. Android is the world’s most popular operating system. Besides, if you’re a programmer, would you want to move literally over a million Android apps to a new platform? I don’t think so!
Chrome OS is already the perfect Google operating system. While built on Linux, much of its functionality relies on Google services. It’s also been gaining more users over the years. Why fool around with business perfection?
It will take years before it’s ready for production, never mind replacing an existing popular operating system.
I also think Google’s smart enough not to reinvent the wheel. This is a new operating system being built from the kernel up. It will take years before it’s ready for production, never mind replacing an existing popular operating system.
I suspect Fuchsia will find its home in virtual reality, augmented reality, or other “still to come” technologies. It’s not a replacement for what we already have; it’s a door to a future we’re not living in yet.
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