From the office of "rumor control," I want to address a tiny elephant that's been running rampant in the room. I want to preface this by saying, I have no proof of what I'm about to defend, nor do I have direct contact with anyone at Google about the platform in question.
With that said, I do not believe Fuschia will be replacing Android or Chrome OS.
Hypothesis out of the way, it's now time to defend that statement.
The biggest question
First and foremost, one must ask a simple question. Why? Currently Android is one of the most widely used platforms in the world. In the third quarter of 2016, Android held 88% of the global market share. In Q2 of 2017, that market share held strong at 87.7%. That's massive—especially considering iOS, thought to be, at one point, the most popular mobile operating system—scrapes up a scant 12.1% market share. With those numbers, one would wonder why Google would dare chance breaking what is obviously working for them?
Imagine the backlash, if Google were to up and replace everyone's Android with an unfamiliar platform. The great Alphabet has to be aware that consumers do not like change. One only need glance at the tectonic shift between Windows 7 and Windows 8, or the reaction when Canonical migrated from GNOME to Unity (and then, wisely, back to GNOME). People. Don't. Like. Change. Especially change that makes no sense. Because ... Android works.
It didn't always. I remember when Android was first released. My first device was an HTC Hero and it was bad. Very bad. Slow, unresponsive, and buggy bad. And yet, I continued on. Those early days were painful. That's how new releases go. I cannot think of a 1.0 version of an operating system to have been released where the growing pains didn't seem nearly insurmountable. Google has to know that. With their stranglehold on the global mobile market, there's absolutely no way they take such a step backward.
What is Fuschia actually for?
This is the next big question, one that has yet to actually be answered. But I will take a stab at this question. Based on the reading I've done over the past year, I believe Fuschia isn't intended to be a replacement for Android or Chrome OS, but a new Internet of Things (IoT) platform.
Android makes an astounding operating system for smartphones and tablets. However, when placed on IoT devices, it's dangerous overkill. The platform has to be completely retooled in order to find a modicum of security for such devices. On top of which, many IoT devices are hampered by far lower resources than even low-end smartphones—which reminds me of that HTC Hero. Hard. Pass. To that end, Google had to create something that could function as well on embedded devices as Android does on mobile devices. I believe that's where Fuschia comes in.
You may be saying, "But whoa, why are they spending time creating a UI for the platform?" The answer is simple: Tomorrow's IoT devices are not yesterday's. These devices will be smarter and more interactive. Because of that, they will require a UI. And, guess what? The UI (Armadillo) can be run on Fuschia and Android. If you've seen any of the "first glance" images or videos of Armadillo, you can see that it's a slimmed-down, simplified Android UI. It's a home screen with scrolling "cards" for apps. Pardon me for assuming, but that does not sound like a solid replacement for what Android currently enjoys. It does, however, sound like it would be perfect for, say, Nest, Android Auto, or a Google Home video device.
To be perfectly honest, however, I don't believe Google has any plans on revealing Fuchsia's purpose. Not now, not in the near future. In a 9to5Google story, Doug Burke said:
"Fuchsia is a early-stage experimental project. We, you know, we actually have lots of cool early projects at Google. I think what's interesting here is it's open source, so people can see it and comment on it."
Remember, Fuchsia was first heard about in 2016. The above quote was from 2017. So Google was, at that time, still calling the platform early-stage experimental. To me, that doesn't sound like a project being given the priority necessary for a system that would replace what is now the leading mobile platform on the planet. By the time Google gets Fuchsia on its legs, Android will probably be on its tenth iteration. There's no way they replace such a mature platform with something so immature.
The conclusion that's easiest to draw
I don't believe Google had any idea what Fuchsia was when it was first being developed—beyond proof of concept. At this stage, I think it's obvious Fuchsia is to be their upcoming IoT darling. We know that IoT (in all of its incarnations) continues to grow in demand. With Android being far from the ideal platform to power such devices, Google probably sees the writing on the wall, all spelled out in fuchsia-colored marker. With that in mind, I imagine within the next year or so, we'll start seeing Fuchsia-powered IoT devices produced and sold by Google on the market. These devices will seamlessly integrate with Android to make for a remarkable ecosystem. Imagine your Android mobile device serving as a smart hub for your home, business, and auto—each of which will be made "smart" with the help of Fuchsia.
That, my friends, is what I believe to be the future of Google's new operating system.
- What Fuchsia could mean for Android (TechRepublic)
- Video: A very early look at Google Fuchsia (TechRepublic Video)
- Could Google's new mystery OS 'Fuchsia' replace Chrome and Android? (TechRepublic)
- Android Oreo: The smart person's guide (TechRepublic)
- Want to try Google's new Fuchsia OS? Now it's available on Pixelbook (ZDNet)
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.