Google has been developing a new operating system called Fuchsia for at least five years, but up until recently the company hasn’t actually used it on any commercially available hardware.

Now 9to5Google reports that Google has begun pushing Fuchsia to a real device that people already own. A new software update rolling out to the first-gen Nest Hub smart display (it was called the Google Home Hub at launch), and that software replaces the device’s operating system with a new one based on Fuchsia.

Most people probably won’t notice much difference, but this could be the beginning of something much bigger.

Here’s the basic idea behind the move – the Nest Hub user interface is separate from the underlying operating system. So Google can replace the Linux-based “Cast OS” (software that’s similar to what runs on Chromecast devices) with Fuchsia and users can still interact with their devices in pretty much the same way as they’ve been doing.

Under the hood though, the operating system will rely on a new operating system that uses a custom “Zircon” kernel instead of Linux, giving Google far more control over the software ecosystem powering its device.

So far Google is only rolling out Fuchsia to a single device. But if that goes well, it’s easy to imagine the company pushing Fuchsia to other Nest products and maybe then to other product categories altogether.

A few years ago Bloomberg reported that Google’s roadmap for Fuchsia started with smart home products, but could eventually include smartphones and laptops. One day Fuchsia might replace Android and Chrome OS… or at least replace the backbone of those operating systems with something new. I’m not entirely convinced that Google wants to kill the brands that it’s spent the last decade or so building for those operating systems.

But if eventually all of Google’s products are based on the same software, it could make it easier for developers to create apps that work across a range of platforms including phones, tablets, notebooks, smart TVs, wearables, and whatever else is next.

 

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  1. I wonder how the kernel stacks up to the Linux one when it comes to device support. And by that I mean stuff like printers, keyboards, etc. I know the android one is pared down but with Fuchsia they have to build it from scratch and who knows if they’ll end up including even less because it’s “not worth it.”

    Also I wonder what this means for people with non-Google devices. Personally I have a JBL Link View for example that I love and so far it has been receiving updates, though only partial (no zoom support for example). But I hope to continue to be able to use it for video calls for a while. (I don’t want to repurpose a tablet because the batteries eventually become a danger and the mics and speakers are better on this).

    1. It’s a lot easier to write drivers for a microkernel with a stable driver interface, which will eventually result in far better support than Linux but on the flip side, almost all that work can be proprietary, beyond the end user’s ability to modify, and impossible to port to other CPUs without permission.
      In other words, it’s great, but only if you just shut up and do what you’re told when using the device. Sure, it works wonders for getting a phone’s CPU to work with its cellular modem, but you’ll NEVER be able to take that work and get your raspberry pi to make phone calls with the same modem. Nor will you ever be able to use a GPU other than what came with a fuchsia device even if it has exposed PCIe lanes!

  2. I want to see fuschia running on an ARM64 laptop device, let’s see how powerful the new OS can be.