Google may replace Android with Fuchsia OS within the next five years as its internal project continues to gain traction, Bloomberg reports, citing people close to the company. Two years after starting the development of the software, Google’s small team of people working on the OS has now grown to 100 engineers and is expected to continue expanding in the immediate future. Unlike Android which is based on the Linux kernel, Fuchsia user a new microkernel called “Zircon,” meaning it’s being developed from literal scratch, with Google reportedly seeing the software as a successor to Android in a new digital era wherein everything from smartphones and televisions to speakers, lamps, microwaves, and garbage bins is connected to the Internet.
Besides being meant to look identical across all platforms, Fuchsia is said to be placing a particularly large focus on voice interactions and ecosystem unity so as to make all devices running it eligible for timely security updates, with the main implication of the latter being that Google may deliver an OS that’s more closed than Android whose high level of fragmentation leaves most devices unprotected. Alphabet’s subsidiary sees Fuchsia as its OS endgame, a solution that will replace both Android and Chrome OS, as well as the former’s forks such as Android Things and Wear OS.
Google’s engineers are presently said to be targeting commercialization within three years and want to bring Fuchsia OS to smart speakers before moving on to more complex devices. Those ambitions may still end up being significantly changed moving forward as neither Google CEO Sundar Pichai nor the company’s Android and Chrome chief Hiroshi Lockheimer have yet approved any Fuchsia roadmap, as per the same report. Mr. Pichai is still said to be highly supportive of the project internally, insiders claim. Even after the OS starts being deployed for commercial purposes, it’s likely to co-exist with Android and Chrome OS for years before Google ends up discontinuing the two older ecosystems.
The Mountain View, California-based digital juggernaut reportedly sees Fuchsia as a way toward being more competitive in a wide variety of industries, particularly in relation to Apple whose iOS still trumps Android in terms of security, performance, and privacy, as well as overall first-party integration. The lattermost point is becoming increasingly more important for Google as the firm continues to increase its efforts in the consumer electronics segment, seeking a share of markets for smartphones, laptops, smart speakers, wearables, and other gadgets. The Fuchsia project that’s presently gaining traction now involves a number of Google veterans, including Matias Duarte, the 44-year-old Chilean designer largely responsible for the modern look of Android and its apps – Material Design. Mr. Duarte still isn’t involved with Fuchsia full-time, one source claims.
After working as the Android Security Engineering Lead for over nine years, Sunnyvale-based Nick Kralevich made a switch to Fuchsia seven months ago, as revealed by his LinkedIn profile. The project itself still has many challenges ahead of it, with one of them already resulting in some disputes at Google – monetization. While the company presently harvests large volumes of data from Android users for the purpose of selling highly targeted advertising, the very concept of Fuchsia would inhibit such practices to a large degree, prioritizing privacy over anything else. The company’s advertising department is already said to have clashed with the Fuchsia team on at least one occasion and successfully pushed it into weakening some privacy features for the benefit of monetization opportunities, according to one insider.
Another source claims Google may not end up going anyway with Fuchsia but continues to fund the project with one clear and immediate benefit in mind – senior staff retention. Instead of risking having its most talented staff poached by rivals who tempt them with new opportunities to change the world, it’s offering those engineers, designers, and other experts the ability to do the same without changing jobs. The fact that Fuchsia ditches the Linux kernel also eliminates the possibility of further disputes with Oracle which owns some related technologies leveraged by Android that are still the subject of an ongoing, years-long legal dispute. Ultimately, even if Google ends up moving forward with Fuchsia, the OS is likely to be incompatible with the vast majority of today’s hardware due to its new kernel and it remains to be seen how keen will the company’s Android partners be to support it.