Fuchsia OS Microkernel Coming To AMD Chromebooks

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Chromebooks built off of the AMD-based 'Grunt' reference board may be among the first capable of running Google's Fuchsia operating system, based on a recently reported commit to the Chromium Gerrit. More compelling, the commit's comment states that the associated code enables support for multiboot images, specifically for 'multibooting' Zircon kernels. Zircon is the microkernel custom-created by the search giant expressly for Fuchsia, taking the place of the Linux kernel found in Android and Chrome OS.

There's no indication in the commit regarding how, exactly, a multiboot option would be implemented or whether it will become available to the general consumer. Likewise, there aren't any clues pointing to how a user might access the feature once finalized and this doesn't necessarily mean that Fuchsia would immediately become available.

What is Fuchsia and why this probably won't arrive soon

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The commit comment and ensuing discussion do not indicate that the OS is anywhere near ready for consumer release on AMD Chromebooks, instead indicating that the new code is required to develop the platform for the hardware. Zircon has been shown to be tested on mobile hardware and on Intel-based Chromebooks in the past but the commit's author notes that they haven't tested multiboot and that they aren't sure whether Fuchsia's kernel works with AMD hardware.

Various aspects of the OS had been tested on Huawei subsidiary HiSilicon's AI-heavy Kirin 970 platform and on Google's own Pixelbook but has flown mostly under the radar and out of public view. Most recently, the Fuchsia SDK was added in its entirety to the Android Open Source Project but the language used in the latest commit seems to indicate that it isn't going to land for end users any time soon. That's primarily because enabling a multiboot on the more complicated multiboot side of the equation doesn't equate to Fuchsia being available. Instead, it simply lays the groundwork that would be required for Fuchsia to be built out.

The new platform is intended, first and foremost, to unify Google's variety of operating systems from its IoT-centric Android Things platform to Android itself, Chrome OS, and more. Doing so would also move the company's popular offerings away from Linux and, more importantly, away from associated programming languages and code libraries, giving Google more autonomy in controlling its array of OS. At the same time, for Chrome OS, in particular, the platform would everything further in the open source direction while keeping Android app support and similar features users have grown to depend on.

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The 'newness' of AMD Chromebooks could indicate accelerated development

Despite that the new commit seems to point to a long timeframe for Fuchsia dual-booting on Chrome OS devices, the fact that AMD Chromebooks themselves are a relatively new seems to point toward accelerating development on Fuchsia itself.

AMD Chromebooks were only just revealed in January and as noted above, development on the Material Design-heavy has already been underway on other hardware. Although the new commit isn't quite the same as developing Fuchsia on that new hardware, this move pushes development on Fuchsia's underlying architecture onto that hardware relatively early compared to other platforms. Coupled with other recent developments on the platform, that seems to imply a sense of urgency behind getting the Zircon kernel prepared and up-to-speed for AMD components and boards.

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