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Google's Building a New Operating System Dubbed Fuschia

Apparently, Google is working on a new operating system called Fuchsia but not much is known about it. Early evidence indicates that the new operating system might be a catchall OS that can run on computers, mobile devices and even Internet of Things devices.

So far, Fuchsia consists of some work on Google’s code repository and on the GitHub code-sharing Web site. News of the new OS emerged from a page that surfaced on GitHub. There has been no official confirmation about the project from Google, although a couple of Google employees have been discussing the nuts and bolts of the operating system online.

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The new operating system does not use the Linux kernel, which is the code that anchors Google’s Android and Chrome operating systems. Instead it is built on Magenta, which Google calls a “medium-sized microkernel” that is based on a project called LittleKernel. That project is designed to be used in embedded systems, i.e., computers that have specialized functions and often don’t need actual operating systems.

Christopher Anderson and Brian Swetland, the two developers acknowledged on Fuchsia’s GitHub page, have deep backgrounds in embedded systems. Swetland is a senior software engineer at Google and Anderson is a veteran of Google’s Android TV and Nexus Q projects.

“The decision was made to build [the OS] open source, so might as well start there from the beginning,” Swetland said in an IRC (Internet Relay Chat) log shared on Hacker News.

Various observers have ideas about Google’s plans for Fuchsia. One theory is that Fuchsia could somehow consolidate Chrome and Android into a single operating system. Another is that the new OS could be aimed at hardware or devices running on the Internet of Things. One developer forum even suggested that Fuchsia could be used for augmented reality interfaces.

Work in Progress

The Magenta software is aimed at modern phones and modern personal computers that use fast processors and lots of RAM, according to Google’s documentation. Magenta is designed to scale better than most commercial embedded operating systems.

Beyond the kernel, it appears Google is using Flutter for the operating system’s user interface, and Dart as its main programming language. Also included is Escher, a renderer that supports light diffusion, soft shadows and other visual effects.

Fuchsia will include support for 32-bit and 64-bit ARM CPUs, as well as 64-bit PCs. Google already has its own platform for the Internet of Things, the Android-based Brillo. That and the fact that Fuchsia supports graphics rendering suggest that Fuchsia is intended for more than just Wi-Fi-connected gadgets.

Swetland said that Fuchsia is “booting reasonably well” on small Intel PCs as well as on an Acer Switch Alpha 12 laptop, although he added that driver support is “still a work in progress.”

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