- Google is behind two of the most well-known operating systems – Chrome OS and Android.
- But it’s an open secret that the search giant has been working on a third OS, which goes by “Fuchsia.”
- Here’s what we know.
Google first acknowledged the existence of Fuchsia in May 2017, when Android VP of engineering Dave Burke called it an “early-stage experimental project.”
What’s giving it the status of OS is its recent development, which allowed some people to run the code on Google’s own Pixelbook and launch a working system. IT worker Mitch Blevins has a YouTube channel where he’s uploaded a series of videos in which he shows some of the features of Fuchsia.
And in January 2018, ArsTechnica’s Ron Amadeo managed to do the same, and we now have some clear images that give us a flavour of what Fuchsia might end up being if Google ever brings it to devices.
What really differentiates Fuchsia from Chrome OS and Android is its core, which is not based on Linux but on a new kernel called Zircon. What this means is that Fuchsia has been developed as a system intended to work on a several platforms, not just phones and laptops.
Here’s what it looks like:
When the OS boots up, you’re greeted with a familiar Android-looking lock screen.
There are three buttons at bottom right, which can be either clicked or tapped (both the trackpad and the touchscreen work). Fuchsia’s symbol is at top left.
The clock at the center is very reminiscent of Android too.
If you try to log in, Google will run you through its usual procedure, but the last screen remains blank.
You can enter only as a guest, and when you do you land on the home screen.
The home screen is radically different from that of any conventional OS, on both mobile and desktop.
It looks a bit like a stretched-out Google Now. There’s some info right in the middle – like time and WiFi status – and then what seems to be a personalised feed of Google-related stuff.
Swipe up to get into the Google Now-like feed.
Google may have replaced Google Now with the more powerful AI-based Assistant, but the feed’s look resembles Google Now.
There are only three cards here, and they’re just samples (as there is no user logged in), but they are the same kinds of cards that appear in your mobile Google feed – including the rounded look.
Yes, apps are still there!
The big difference between Fuchsia’s home screen and those of more traditional operating systems is the lack of apps. There’s no dock, no desktop icons, no launcher.
What is there, though, is Google’s famous search bar – and in this alpha version of Fuchsia it doesn’t search the web but rather the computer itself, including apps.
The apps don’t actually work – they’re just image placeholders showing mockups – but they go full screen and show a differently coloured strip at the top.
There’s also multitasking.
Google introduced multitasking with Android 6.0 Marshmallow in 2016, so it would only make sense that a new OS – meant to run on widescreen computers – does the same.
You can snap two apps’ windows together, and there’s even a tab mode that merges two apps in a window as if they were two browser tabs you can easily switch between.
Closing an app will populate the home screen.
The small dot indicator at the bottom can be tapped or clicked to go back to the home screen, but doing so from an app will immediately send that app to the app switcher.
Unlike traditional desktop operating systems, the switcher is not a dock-like bar at the bottom but a full-blown “river” of apps that are stacked at the top in reverse chronological order.
You can scroll through the river.
Scroll up and all your previously used apps will appear. In this way, Fuchsia resembles mobile operating systems.
Tapping the Fuchsia symbol in the middle will open a settings-like panel.
The settings panel is pretty bare bones in this build, with just a few sliders for volume and brightness and some toggles that look just like Android’s.
You can also read a string that says “yard-polar-royal-crust” in the middle, but we’re not exactly sure what that is.
The build fully supports phone mode.
As we said, Fuchsia is an OS designed for many platforms.
It can dynamically switch between phone and tablet-laptop mode. Some apps and mockups support phone mode, some don’t, but generally speaking the OS seems to be built to be truly versatile.
Apps, using Material Design’s principles, adapt to the screen.
Google launched Material Design in 2014, and the universal design guidebook had flexibility as one of its main pillars.
Apps automatically adapt to the screen size and change the user interface accordingly.
There is phone mode, desktop mode, but also tablet mode.
The build has support for a “tablet” mode, too, which works as the horizontal version of the phone mode.
Check out the full videos of the OS running over on Mitch Blevin’s YouTube channel.
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