HiSilicon Kirin 970 Is The First Mobile Test SoC For Fuchsia OS

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Huawei-owned HiSilicon’s Kirin 970 SoC is now officially the first mobile platform for Google’s Fuchsia OS, based on recent changes in the Fuchsia Gerrit first spotted by 9to5Google. Summarily, the code has been reworked at the kernel level to support that chipset. That was tested with a boot of that kernel on a Kirin 970-based Honor Play smartphone. That test was ultimately successful but did not include the full range of Fuchsia OS software or firmware.

Background: Fuchsia OS first appeared publicly on GitHub in 2016 and steps away from the Linux Kernal both Android and Chrome OS are built on, using a built-from-scratch ‘Zircon’ kernel instead. The overarching purpose of Zircon is to enable an operating system that will accomplish any task others can while significantly reducing the resources required. The majority of developments on the product have remained closely guarded secrets but at least a few representations of the progress so far have been made public. Those have shown a UI that’s heavy influence by the ‘card-like’ design implemented across Google products in both Android and Chrome OS. In one of the most recent leaks, Fuchsia’s lock screen was almost a replica of that found in Chrome OS. The home screen, conversely, showed apps and features placed on cards like those found in the Google app instead of as icons. Tapping any of those caused them to cycle in and out of focus much like the animations found in the latest iterations of Android but with a similarly card-based UI.

All of the testing up until this point has also taken place in web-containers or on laptop-like hardware. That’s in spite of the fact that Chrome OS is speculated to replace Android at some point in the next 5 years. In July, the number of engineers working on the platform expanded to include 100 engineers with expectations that the number would continue to grow. It’s been posited that Fuchsia OS will circumvent the device-dependent split in interactions currently seen across the range of connected devices. In short, it is meant to look and act the same regardless of which platform it is accessed from, bringing unity to smartphones, wearables, traditional computers, and IoT-ready appliances such as smart fridges, lamps, speakers, and televisions. Instead of dividing interactions across each different format, voice commands and other universal methods for controlling those devices will take the forefront with Fuchsia OS. That will enable Google to bring all of its products together under one ecosystem with only minor variances across the whole.


Impact: With the new test showing a successful implementation of support for the Kirin 970 chipset, those efforts appear to have taken a big step forward toward that goal. Now, only devices built by either Huawei or its subsidiary will be able to utilize any HiSilicon SoC. The Kirin 970 is also set to be replaced soon by the more powerful Kirin 980 that was announced during IFA Berlin 2018. So it that will probably not be the first chipset to deliver the alternative OS to consumers even though Huawei still may be among the first responsible for mobile devices running Fuchsia. What this test does is to give Google a lead-in into smartphones by showing that an installation can be performed on top of current mobile hardware. The search giant only needs to finish building out the rest of the code for Fuchsia. Once that’s been accomplished, the challenge of porting over to other smartphone hardware shouldn’t be much more challenging than doing the same with Android OS.