Google’s Fuchsia could replace Android and unite all devices

Google / WIRED

While the creator of one of the two most popular mobile operating systems on the market, Google’s Android does not play well with its desktop sibling ChromeOS. Compared to the close relationship that can be achieved between iOS and MacOS, or the various versions of Microsoft’s Windows 10, Google lags behind its competitors in integrating all of a user’s devices together. But Fuchsia, its upcoming operating system that’s currently in development, aims to fix this.

There is a lot of uncertainty around Fuchsia, but we know a few things about it. It’s rumoured there could be a launch in 2019 at the very earliest. Its user interface comes in two animal-named versions; Capybara for the desktop, and Armadillo for mobile, the OS is built using a brand new kernel called ‘Zircon’, instead of using Linux like Android does, and it’s all designed to be continuously upgraded. At the moment, Android has a fragmentation problem where most users run older versions.

It also contains a feature called ‘Ledger’ which will synchronise all your devices together, letting you start writing something on one machine and finish it on another. Apps for Fuchsia can be made using Flutter, a Google-made software development kit that is already in use for its existing operating systems.

Developers and intrepid users have been able to look at a basic preview of Fuchsia by downloading the files to Google’s Pixelbook, the only device currently supported. However this week, a bare bones demo was released online for people to try via their browser on computers, tablets and mobiles. The demo isn’t officially from Google but more of a mock-up of what Fuchsia may be like.

All you can really do is click around and appreciate the interface and boxes where content will eventually be, but it’s still interesting to look at and see how Google’s next step in operating systems could be shaping up.

On the test, When you log-in (currently you can only do so as ‘Guest’), it’s arranged in a vertical rather than horizontal pattern, where scrolling upwards bring you your apps, and downwards a toolbar offering a search box, emails and maps. In the centre is basic information like time, location, battery life, and a central Fuchsia icon which brings up a quick function menu for volume, brightness, networks and so on.

The screenshots and videos that have been released by Google, since we first learned of Fuchsia in 2016, also show there to be a heavy implementation of its Assistant. Some code from Google staffers has indicated that its Alexa competitor will be able to have access to most things running on the OS.

Much of what’s suggested to be in Fuchsia is similar to what others already have. Apple’s Continuity feature has ‘Handoff’, which allows certain apps to carry their data automatically between Macs and iPhones, as well as a universal clipboard and messaging/phone integration. Windows 10 and its mobile version also has some functionality like this, able to sync photos, music and other files via an app.

We will have to wait patiently before we get to look at a version of Fuchsia that’s near to completion, but for now, it seems like Google is at last dealing with its problems in an area where its rivals are clearly ahead. But then again, as with all developmental projects from the biggest tech firms, the whole thing could come to nothing.

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