Google already has two popular operating systems: Android for phones and tablets, and Chrome OS for laptops, desktops, and… some other tablets.
But for the past few years the company has also been working on a new operating system called Fuchsia. Development has been semi-public, with Google publishing the source code online. But now Google has announced that it’s expanding the open source model for Fuchsia.
Now anyone can follow development, read documentation and scan the issue tracker, sign up for a mailing list, set up an emulator, or view a roadmap. And independent developers can also now become a member and submit patches or new features that may be incorporated into the official Fuchsia code.
While this is a big step for Fuchsia, it’s still not entirely clear what the operating system is actually for. Some have speculated that it could eventually replace Android and Chrome OS. Maybe it’ll run on smart home devices.
What Google says is that it’s a “long-term project to create a general-purpose, open source operating system.”
But the OS could also be useful to Google in the future because it doesn’t rely on a Linux kernel or other technologies that Google has little control over. A new operating system developed from scratch could give Google more leverage in tailoring the OS to offer performance tailored for specific devices (whatever those devices may be).
While Google is now creating a process that allows outsiders to contribute to the project, any code that’s submitted is owned by Google, which then makes it available under a BSD-like license. So Fuchsia is still first and foremost a Google initiative, even though it’s a little more open today than it was yesterday.
The upshot of this new openness though, is that if and when it starts to become clear what Google is actually planning to do with Fuchsia, it’s a little more likely now that someone will figure it out from code commits without waiting for an official announcement from Google.
For now it’s interesting to note that a list of development hardware targets include the Intel-powered hardware like the Acer Switch Alpha 12 tablet computer, an Intel NUC mini-desktop, a Google Pixelbook Chromebook/laptop, and single-board computers with ARM-based processors including the Khadas VIM2, and NXP i.MX8M Evaluation Kit.