Google's new smartphone OS 'Fuchsia' will skip Linux and have a re-imagined UI

Here is a first look at Google's Fuchsia OS which is currently under development.

From what we heard last year, Google was speculated to be working on a third OS called Fuchsia. There was only little information at that time and we knew the fact that it exists, it would be open source and could run on everything from embedded devices to smartphones and PCs.

Android Police had done some investigation and found that the OS is based on Magenta Kernel, which is in-turn based on the LittleKernel project. Both these kernels were designed to run on embedded devices. The UI is based on Flutter, which is “a heavily optimized, mobile-first 2D rendering engine (with excellent support for text)” and a little more than that. Apparently, Google decided to go with Dart as the programming language. Android Police also pointed out that the OS uses Escher, a rendering engine with full OpenGL and Vulkan support.

According to a new report from Ars Technica, Google is indeed working on its third OS and now we have some system UI screenshots to prove it.

The Fuchsia interface will be written in Flutter SDK which is supported across platforms. It means that a part of it can run on an Android device. When the OS made its first appearance last year, compiling the code only gave a command line, but has found that the Fuchsia System UI, called 'Armadillo' is quite something.

Downloading the source and compiling Fuchsia's System UI into an Android APK allows one to install it on an Android device, giving an idea of how the whole UI has been re-imagined. The home screen, keyboard, home button are all new although nothing actually works. The source also has a readme file that describes how the interface actually works.

The home screen has a long vertically scrolling list with the user's profile picture, date, time, location and a battery icon in the center. Right above that are some cards called 'Story' which are said to be the recent apps and below it is a list of suggestions similar to Google Now The home button which is a single white circle, pops up from the bottom of the screen. Tapping on the profile picture brings up the menu which is similar to Android's quick settings. There are icons for battery, connectivity, airplane mode, do not disturb, and auto rotate as well as sliders for volume and brightness. Below that are buttons for 'log out' and 'more'. Of course none of these icons work on Android.

The Story section on top is described "a set of apps and/or modules that work together for the user to achieve a goal." This could mean a revamped recent apps list. The list is sorted by last opened so the most recently used cards will be at the bottom of the list. Tapping on any card opens a full-screen interface.

There is also a window-management feature where a long press on a card lets you drag it around, and if you drop it on top of another app, it opens the split screen mode.

Googles new smartphone OS Fuchsia will skip Linux and have a re-imagined UI

There is also a new keyboard with a custom Fuchsia interface with a new dark theme, and things like long-pressing for symbols or settings do not work. There is also a mockup of Google Now, which offers several suggestion cards which seems different from Google Now's news, weather, and calendar suggestions. The accompanied read-me document says "Conceptually a suggestion is a representation of an action the user can take to augment an existing story or to start a new one."

All of this is interesting, but what kind of plan does Google have for Fuchsia?

Fuchsia developer Travis Geiselbrecht said in the public Fuchsia IRC channel,  "the OS isn't a toy thing, it's not a 20% project, it's not a dumping ground of a dead thing that we don't care about anymore."

It could be a brand new chapter for Google's approach to make a revamped mobile OS, and at some level, replace Android. Everything is new from ground up, the kernel, the programming language and a new material design based UI. If Google does plan on taking a decision to make this OS mainstream, it will have to first focus on two main issues. Firstly it has to efficiently get OS updates rolled out across the third-party device makers and focus on smooth and lag free performance.

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