Fuchsia SDK & Test Device Appear In Android Open Source Project

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Google has taken substantial new steps toward the release of its long-awaited new operating system Fuchsia, based on recently noticed changes to the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) codebase. Although AOSP is most often connected to Android OS and development on that platform, Fuchsia OS has now appeared as both an SDK and test device in the repository. According to comments on the commits, the OS's repositories being included in the Android master manifest equates to an added 760MB. The Gerrit UI also shows changes to approximately 977 files in total with the addition of the Fuchsia software development kit (SDK) and a related test device. Interestingly, the test device SDK seems to be based on or at least tested with the configuration for 'Walleye' — Google's codename for one of the Pixel 2 handsets.

Background: Near the middle of 2018, sources close to Google's work on Fuchsia claimed that the new OS, based on the in-house 'Zircon' microkernel rather than Linux, could replace Android within the next 5 years. Meant to act as an all-encompassing system for all things IoT, the operating system would not only be present on mobile devices but on other connected electronics and possibly Chromebooks. That means it would replace Android Things and Wear OS too. At the time, the sources claimed that Google would start rolling the OS out on smart speakers first before working up to more complex iterations such as smartphones or laptops. The new commits in the AOSP don't represent an immediate change that outlook and may just be the most visible implementation of Fuchsia as an OS replacement to-date.

Perhaps more surprising with the AOSP commits is that they seem to conflict with even more recent reports that seem to contradict the use of the codename Walleye. Specifically, changes to the Fuchsia OS Gerrit seen in November suggested that Pixel-based hardware would not be the first official test device for the operating system. Instead, the indication was that Huawei-owned HiSilicon had been granted that honor with official support added for its Kirin 970 SoC. A partial test of the OS was performed on an Honor Play handset featuring the chipset following changes that added support for it.

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Impact: The test device that's been added with the changes seems to be intended for use alongside other virtual devices that apps can be trialed on in Android Studio via Android Emulator. Taken in combination with the file changes and repositories that have been added, that seems to imply that soon test builds of applications will be buildable for Fuchsia. That will be accomplished in much the same way a developer might build and test for compatibility or eliminate common bugs for an Android app. Google's Flutter SDK will typically serve as the base on which apps are built for Fuchsia so that development can't necessarily begin immediately since that developer kit hasn't been added yet. This latest addition does move things in that direction to a significant degree though since developers will now be able to explore the underpinnings of the OS more deeply.