What a Google Fuchsia preview reveals

Google is working on a new operating system, and we just got our first real look at it.

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Mike Elgan

What do you do when you are Google and have the most popular operating system in the world? You build a new one, of course.

That appears to be what Google is doing with Fuchsia, a new OS that the tech giant has been working on since last summer. But what is Fuchsia, will it replace Android, and, most importantly, why is Google creating it?

In IT Blogwatch, we share what we know. 

So what is going on? Steven Musil has some background:

Fuchsia, the mysterious new operating system under development at Google...has acquired a user interface.
The new UI, dubbed Armadillo, features a card-based design for managing multiple apps...The new interface...allows cards to be dragged around and used in a split-screen format.

Ok, we have a new Google OS, and it card-based. Where did it come from, though? Kellex has that info:

Fuchsia...is something separate from Android and Chrome OS that isn’t based on Linux and is essentially an all-Google product from top to bottom...It’s...been around since last August, but recently was updated...with UI elements that give us a preview of what Google is up to here.
Fuchsia is built on Google’s...kernel called “Magenta”...the interface and apps are written in Google’s Flutter SDK (with Google’s Dart), a Vulkan-based graphics renderer called “Escher,” and all sorts of Google’s Material Design. It’s all Google...something that can’t be said for Android.

And how does it work? Elyse Betters introduces us to the OS:

With Armadillo, different cards can be dragged around for use in a split-screen or tabbed interface. They even appear to offer up Google Now-like suggestions. Unfortunately...we don't yet know what Google plans to do with Fuchsia...But with Google I/O right around the corner, we may learn more about Fuchsia soon.

Can we get some more details on what can Fuchsia do? It seems like it will do lots, but for now we just have a very basic preview. From that preview, Ben Schoon shares some details:

A...home screen takes the focus away from applications and...focuses on personal information, Google cards, and what appears to be some sort of recent apps menu.
Front and center is the user’s profile image which, when tapped, can reveal a handful of quick settings for brightness and volume among others...That menu also has “Log Out” and “More” options, but it’s unclear what those will do since nothing is working yet. Opening and closing this menu also shows a very fluid (and pretty) animation.

We get it, a lot is still up in the air. But what do we know? Alex Wagner fills in some of the blanks:

The Fuchsia UI starts with a round profile picture that, when tapped, will show controls for sound and brightness, toggles for Airplane Mode, Do Not Disturb, and rotation lock, as well as info like your Wi-Fi and mobile networks. Above this profile picture is a list of recent app...cards, and below it is a Google Now-style scrolling list of suggestions.
Tapping on the recent apps cards will launch it into full screen mode. You can also long press on a card and drag it around...when you combine it with other cards, you can split your screen with multiple apps, including a 50/50 split, a 75/25 split, a 33/33/33 split, or you can even run four apps at once.

And is all this what we are going to see when Fuchsia is finalized? Maybe, maybe not. Corbin Davenport has an important reminder:

Keep in mind that all of this is subject to change, as the Armadillo interface (and the rest of Fuchsia OS) is still under heavy development. It's also hard to tell what Google's plans are for the operating system. Will...it some day replace Android altogether? We'll have to wait and see.

That brings up a good point -- what is the point of Fuchsia, anyway? Ron Amadeo gives his opinion:

Android was conceived in the days before the iPhone...With Android, Google is still chained to decisions it made years ago, before it knew anything about managing a mobile OS that ships on billions of smartphones.
Fuchsia...seems like a project that asks "how would we design Android today, if we could start over?" It's a brand-new, Google-developed kernel running a brand-new, Google-developed SDK that uses a brand-new, Google-developed programming language and it's all geared to run Google's Material Design interface as quickly as possible...Google can basically insulate itself from all of Android's upstream projects and bring all the development in-house. Doing such a thing on the scale of Android today would be a massive project.

Finally, we keep hearing about this Fuchsia preview -- where is it, anyway? Kyle Bradshaw put it together.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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