Google is the company behind two of the most well-known and popular operating systems (OS), Chrome OS and – more notably – Android. However, it’s kind of an open secret at this point that the search giant has actively been working on a third OS, which goes by the name of “Fuchsia.”
Google acknowledged the existence of Fuchsia last year, 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 opened up a YouTube channel last week and has uploaded a series of videos in which he shows some of the features of Fuchsia.
And on Thursday, ArsTechnica’s Ron Amadeo also 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 actual devices.
The main thing that differentiates Fuchsia from Chrome OS and Android is its core, which is not based on Linux but rather on a new kernel called “Zircon.” What this means is that Fuchsia has been developed as a system intended to work on a multitude of platforms, not just phones or laptops.
Here’s how it looks:
When the OS first boots up, you are greeted with a familiar, Android-looking lock screen.
There are three buttons at the bottom right, which can be either clicked or tapped (both the trackpad and the touchscreen work), and Fuchsia’s symbol at the 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 only enter 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 custom, 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, artificial intelligence-based Assistant, but the feed’s look resembles Google Now.
There are only three cards here, and they are 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 complete lack of apps: There’s no dock, no desktop icons, and no launcher.
What is there, however, 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 first introduced multitasking with Android 6.0 Marshmallow back 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, Fuchsia resembles mobile operating systems a lot.
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 a multi-platform-designed OS.
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 first launched Material Design back 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 (UI) accordingly.
There is phone mode, desktop mode, but also tablet mode.
The build has support for a “tablet” mode, too, which also works as the horizontal version of the phone mode.