Android

What Fuchsia could mean for Android

Fuchsia could be next replacement for Android, or Android and Chrome OS. Speculation abounds, and Jack Wallen adds to this speculation some kudos and caveats for Google to consider.

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Image: Jack Wallen

Google has never been one to settle or to do things in a way that is not decidedly "Google". So it should have come as no surprise to anyone that they began working on a project that had many scratching their heads. The project is called Fuschia and most people that follow Google and Android closely, know of this new platform.

For those that haven't been following the latest and greatest from Google, Fuschia is a new, real-time, open source operating system that first popped up on the radar in August, 2016. Back then, Fuchsia was nothing more than a command line. Less than a year has zipped by and the platform already has a rather interesting GUI.

Much to the chagrin of the Linux faithful, Fuchsia does not use the Linux kernel. This project is all Google and uses a Google-developed microkernel, named "Magenta." Why would they do this? Consider the fact that Google's newest device, the Pixel, runs kernel 3.18 and you have your answer. The 3.18 Linux kernel was released in 2014 (which, in tech terms is ancient). With that in mind, why wouldn't Google want to break out completely on their own to keep their mobile platform as up to date as possible?

Although it pains me to think that Linux might not be (in some unknown future date) powering the most widely-used ecosystem on the planet, I believe this is the right move for Google, with one major caveat.

First, a couple of kudos

I have to first say, bravo to Google for open sourcing Fuchsia. This was the right move. Android has benefitted from the open source Linux kernel for years, so it only makes sense that Google would open up their latest project. To be perfectly honest, had it not been for open source and the Linux kernel, Android would not have risen nearly as quickly as it did. In fact, I would venture a guess to say that, had it not been for Android being propped up by Linux and open source, the mobile market share would show a very different, apple-shaped, picture at the moment.

The next bit of bravo comes by way of necessity. Operating systems need to be completely rethought now and then. Android is an amazing platform that serves the mobile world quite well. However, there's only so much evolution one can squeeze out of it; and considering the consuming world is always looking for next big thing, Android (and iOS) can only deliver so many times before they have been wrung dry. Couple that with a sorely out of date kernel and you have a perfect storm ready for the likes of Fuchsia.

Google has never been one to remain stagnant and this new platform is proof.

That darned caveat

I will preface this by reminding everyone of my open source background. I have been a user of Linux since the late 90s and have covered nearly every aspect of open source to be found. Over the last few years, I've been watching and commenting on the goings on with Ubuntu and their (now) failed attempt at convergence. With that said, here's my concern with Fuchsia.

My suspicion is that Google's big plan for Fucshia is to create a single operating system for all devices: Smartphones, IoT, Chromebooks. On the surface, that sounds like an idea that would bear significant fruit; but if you examine the struggles Canonical endured with Unity 8/Mir/Convergence, you cringe at the idea of "one platform to rule them all". Of course, this isn't quite the same. I doubt Google is creating a single platform that will allow you to "converge" all of your devices. After all, what benefit would there be to converging IoT with your smartphone? It's not like we need to start exchanging data between a phone and a thermostat. Right? Right???

Even so, should that be the plan for Google, I would caution them to look closely at what befell Canonical and Unity 8. It was an outstanding idea that simply couldn't come to fruition.

I could be wrong about this. Google might be thinking of Fuchsia as nothing more than a replacement for Android. It is quite possible this was Google needing to replace the outdated Linux kernel and deciding they may as well go "all in". But considering Armadillo (the Fuchsia UI) has been written in the cross-platform Flutter SDK, the idea of crossing the platform boundary starts to fall into the realm of the possible.

Or, maybe Fuchsia is simply just Google saying "Let's rebuild our smartphone platform with the knowledge we have today and see where it goes." If that's the case, I would imagine the Google mobile OS will be primed for major success. However, there's one elephant in the room that many have yet to address that hearkens back to "one platform to rule them all". Google has been teasing Android apps on Chromebooks for quite some time. Unfortunately, the success with this idea has been moderate (at best). With Microsoft going out of their way to compete with Chromebooks, Google knows they have to expand that ecosystem, or else lose precious ground (such as within the education arena). One way to combat this is with a single OS to drive both smartphones and Chromebooks. It would mean all apps would work on both platforms (which would be a serious boon) and a universality to the ecosystem (again, massive boon).

Speculation

Google is very good at keeping this sort of thing close to the vest; which translates to a lot of speculation on the part of pundits. Generally speaking, at least with Android, Google has always seemed to make the right moves. If they believe Fuchsia is the way to go, then I'm inclined to believe them. However, there are so many uncertainties surrounding this platform that one is left constantly scratching one's head in wonder.

What do you think? What will Fuchsia become? Speculate with me.

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About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

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