Google has been working on a new operating system called Fuchsia for a few years. That’s not a huge surprise. The company has been posting source code online for a while, and outsiders have been digging into it to see what makes Fuchsia tick.

But it’s never been entirely clear just what Google plans to do with Fuchsia. Is it a replacement for Android? Will it power new types of devices? Will it just run on Google hardware, or is Google designing it for third-party hardware partners?

Now Bloomberg claims to have the answers: yes to all of that. Maybe.

image credit: Ron Amadeo/Ars Technica

According to Bloomberg, “people familiar” with conversations between Fuchsia team members, the idea is to create

a single operating system capable of running all the company’s in-house gadgets, like Pixel phones and smart speakers, as well as third-party devices that now rely on Android and another operating system called Chrome OS

The developers are allegedly hoping to have Fuchsia ready for the following platforms in the following time frames:

  • Voice controlled smart speakers in the next 3 years
  • Laptops an other computers in the next 3-5 years
  • Smartphones within the next 5 years

In other words, by 2023, Fuchsia could replace Google’s Android software for smartphones.

But… it also might not. While Bloomberg reports there are more than 100 Googlers working on Fuschia, it’s still not a done deal that the operating system will replace Android and Chrome OS. Higher ups including Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Android/Chrome OS chief Hiroshi Lockheimer apparently haven’t signed off on those plans yet.

The move seems like it would be risky: Android is a massive success story for Google and currently runs on billions of devices. Switching to a new operating system could provide an opening for competitors to encroach on Google’s market share… although I suspect Google will build backward compatibility into the platform so that user interface isn’t entirely unfamiliar and many of your favorite apps will run on the new platform.

And that’s just talking about consumer adoption. Google will also have to convince hardware makers and software developers to come along for the ride.

On the other hand, the move makes sense when you consider that Google’s operating system efforts have been a bit all over the place for the past decade. Android wasn’t originally designed for tablets, for example, so the company was slow to adapt it for devices with larger screens. Chrome OS was originally designed as a browser-only operating system, but it eventually gained support for running Android apps and is currently in the process of gaining Linux app support.

Starting over gives Google an opportunity to design software for the way people are currently using its products… and for ways the company expects them to be used in the future (by building in better support for artificial intelligence, voice, and other newish features).

The move would also give Google more control over the system kernel than it currently has with the Linux-based Android operating system. And the company could theoretically change the way OS updates are delivered: right now it’s up to carriers and device makers to ship feature and security updates to Android users, while Chromebooks get their updates directly from Google. Fuchsia could give Google the chance to make smartphone updates start to feel more like laptop updates in terms of frequency and longevity.

Google hasn’t commented publicly on the Bloomberg story, so it’s probably best to take everything with a grain of salt for now. But there’s nothing particularly surprising in the report, given what we already know about Fuchsia.

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6 replies on “Report: Google’s Fuchsia could eventually replace Android and Chrome OS”

  1. Maybe not such a good idea, if Google tries to end support for Android and Chrome OS, You know, like Microsoft tried to kill XP with Windows 8 and Vista. Good news for Apple though.

  2. > Fuchsia could give Google the chance to make smartphone updates start to feel more like laptop updates in terms of frequency and longevity.

    Fortunately I don’t need a Fuchsia kernel on my laptop to be able to install anything and update it as often as I want, thanks to open source drivers.

    I’m following open source projects for smartphones and tablets, but it’s sad how difficult it is to get the same as for PCs.

  3. I can’t wait for Fuchia laptops and sff pcs… so I can install Ubuntu on them. Google does a good job with the hardware design… I really could care less about their in-house proprietary OS.
    I just wish that I could install Ubuntu on my Android phone. I totally understand why the big companies want proprietary.

    1. I share the sentiment.

      However, I am afraid that with Fuchsia, the driver situation would become worse for Linux. Manufacturers would start producing drivers for the Fuchsia kernel and abandoning Linux driver efforts.

  4. Assuming they are planning on near 100% compatibility with existing Android apps, it’s likely this will end up being sold as the next version of Android — whichever is next in line. Android’s internals have been redesigned several time already, and most consumers were none the wiser.

    Clearly Fuchsia would be a far bigger overhaul, but it’s unlikely the user interface on phones will change all that much, so most consumers are unlikely to see it as a big change (if they even notice at all).

    Fuchsia would still be free to make more dramatic changes to the way tablets, 2-in-1s, and Chromebook style devices operate, since the users bases for these classes of devices are small, so there is much less of an investment to protect.

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