Google’s mysterious Fuchsia OS has been a hot topic of discussion ever since it came out in the open in 2016. We’ve since seen it running on a smartphone and a Pixelbook, but we’re no closer to finding out what the company is planning to do with it and when it’ll get an official release.
Bloomberg reports that Fuchsia now has over a 100 employees working on it, a clear sign that Google is taking this seriously and it’s not just one of its random moonshot experiments. With that many people involved, it’s natural that there’s been some fierce debate internally about the future of the OS.
Fuchsia vs Android
Fuchsia is a huge leap forward from Android. The latter was created with Linux as its base years ago when smartphones were just gaining steam. Leap forward to the present day and it’s riddled with problems. Updates are fragmented and entirely dependent on manufacturers and carriers. Google is in a legal battle with Oracle, Linux’s distributor.
Fuchsia would help Google break away from those issues. First of all, it’s based on the company’s own Zircon kernel and not Linux. It’s being built as a single OS replacement for Android and Chrome OS, in addition to powering Internet of Things devices. The focus is on voice interactions and regular security updates, free of OEM constraints.
One source claims that engineers are hoping to embed Fuchsia into smart gadgets like voice-controlled speakers within 3 years, followed by laptops. Another says the aim is to replace Android with Fuchsia within 5 years. That’s a very ambitious timeline, especially considering the rumor that Google CEO Sundar Pichai hasn’t even signed off on this direction yet.
There’s a lot at stake for Google here. This plan could badly disrupt its ad revenue and leave a huge mess of incompatible Android phones behind. The Fuchsia team is apparently divided on the balance between security and ads. The OS is being built with encryption in mind, but this would limit the amount of data Google has access to.
It’s still early days for Fuchsia. Google will probably continue to tinker with it for years to come, so don’t expect a dramatic switch to happen any time soon. The company has issued a statement to CNET dismissing claims of a 5-year roadmap, but that doesn’t mean it’ll never happen.