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Google and Project Fuchsia: Chasing that single OS dream

Will Google's Fuchsia reinvent and replace Android or be more like Microsoft's Midori project?

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Google is reportedly working on an operating system dubbed Fuchsia that will succeed Android and work on multiple devices and screens.

Welcome to the allure of a single OS, an effort that always looks great on the white board but is hard to deliver.

Now Bloomberg is reporting that Google is chasing that one OS dream. For more than two years, Google has been working on Fuchsia and now has more than 100 engineers on the case.

The concept of one OS and multiple devices--smartphones, laptops, Internet of things, smartwatches etc.--is almost irresistible. Just ask Microsoft, which chased the one OS dream with Midori and ultimatelyWindows 10. Apple is bridging Mac OS and iOS, but don't be surprised if the company goes for some version of that single OS dream across laptops, phones, smartwatches and TVs.

Google's grand plan, according to Bloomberg, is to launch its one OS to rule its ecosystem in about 5 years. It would be very easy to predict that Fuchsia will fail, but let's try to be a bit more objective. With that goal in mind here are the two sides of the Google single OS ledger.

Why Fuchsia will work

  • It has to. Mobile developments such as 5G and the Internet of things means that architecture of devices will inevitably have to change. Android, like most systems, will become bloated.
  • Google is also betting its future on artificial intelligence and machine learning. The best way to advance is to create one operating system that's built for AI services and not devices.
  • The Fuchsia team is small-ish. A hundred engineers isn't a small number by any stretch for Google a team like that isn't unwieldy. The effort is also engineer driven for now and that keeps things like marketing, sales and executives out of the mix.
  • Fuchsia code is leveraging the open source community. You can take a gander at the Git repositories now. In other words, Google isn't trying to reinvent Android within its bubble.

Why Fuchsia won't work

  • Google is turning a supertanker. Android is massive and so is its ecosystem. Thinking any OS written from scratch is going to upend an incumbent is a bit nutty. That 5-year timeline is almost comical.
  • Reverse compatibility. Fuchsia may have a fresh code base, but it'll still have to work with what's in the field. Reverse compatibility often results in bloat.
  • Team Fuchsia will ultimately become unwieldy. So far, this single OS dream is being pursued by engineering types. Eventually more Google execs will be involved. Some of these execs are going to be inclined to support the status quo. Google's flat structure means that there will be some serious management challenges ahead.
  • The single OS dream is deceptive. Fuchsia sounds great in theory, but is it even reasonable to expect one OS to be able to handle dozens of computing scenarios? The single OS concept is one driven by the business and dominant platforms. The end customer isn't likely to care whether it's one OS or not.