The world was treated to its first glimpse of Google's latest operating system today. The OS, which the company is calling "Fuchsia" at the moment, is a non-Linux-based system that seems to be designed with mobile devices in mind. It could eventually replace both the company’s Android mobile OS and its Chrome OS.
While clues about Fuchsia first began to appear in August, there was little to see at the time other than the command line. From the video and screenshots posted online, it looks as if Fuchsia's GUI (graphical user interface) will differ considerably from Android and Chrome, even if it continues to change in the future.
A Major Change from Android
Fuchsia is a big deal for a couple reasons. First, building a third OS from scratch represents a major investment in time and resources for a company that already has two operating systems on the market. Although the company has not said anything about why it is developing Fuchsia, the seriousness with which it has approached the project could indicate that Google eventually plans to replace Android and Chrome with Fuchsia.
And unlike those two systems (as well as the majority of operating systems currently on the market), Fuchsia is not built on a Linux kernel. Instead, it is based on a microkernel called “Magenta” developed by Google, seemingly another indicator of the time and effort Google has invested in the project. Abandoning Linux would be a major step for the company.
Dropping Linux also means dropping the GNU General Public License under which it is distributed. Magenta is licensed through a combination of the Berkeley Software Distribution license (BSD), MIT, and Apache 2.0. The BSD license in particular may give Google more flexibility with regard to how it's able to distribute Fuchsia in the future.
Controlling Its Destiny
Another possible advantage to dropping Linux would be that Google would have more control over updates to the kernel running at the core of its operating system. The company has been slow to update Android with new versions of the Linux kernel, sometimes lagging years behind the latest update.
All of this indicates that Google may be aiming to bring future OS development in-house. Not only would Google have greater control over the licensing behind its distribution agreements, but Fuchsia and the Flutter SDK are designed to be cross-platform, which would make it easier for Google developers trying to ensure Android runs on all manner of hardware platforms it's expected to power.
While Fuchsia could certainly give Google more control over the destiny of its OS development, the company has not yet indicated when it might hit the market.