back to article Google's brand new OS could replace Android

The source code of Google's latest operating system has emerged, and it looks like all new code from the ground up. The Fuchsia project can be found here, and uses an entirely new kernel, "Magenta." It boots on ARM and x86, and the authors say they've managed to boot it on a Raspberry Pi. The IPC part is Mojo and higher up the …

  1. Baldy50

    Fuchsia

    Well l hope the coding is as pretty as the flower. Lightweight, secure and usable to the open source platform.

    Very easy to take cuttings from!

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Fuchsia

      Cuttings and Fuschias? Yes.

      but will we be able to 'fork' it over.

      Mines the one with the rooting powder in the pocket

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fuchsia

      I wonder if this is the coming together of Chrome and Android (the Windows killer) in addition to IoT and all kinds of next gen stuff.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Fuchsia

        Until it can run Crysis (3), it'll be a nonstarter as a Windows-killer. Games remain a killer app there.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Fuchsia

          Yeah, maybe, or people will buy a Chrome/Fuchsia book and a PS4. It does seem that MSFT is trying to leverage XBox to do something with Windows that requires a heavy desktop OS... because everything else works in a browser and you don't need Windows to run a browser. They were trying to use Office to fill that role, but then Google Apps started eating their lunch so they had to browserize Office... to some extent at least.

  2. ChubbyBehemoth

    Open Sourced or Binary Blob?

    Can't get much info on it being in China, but I wonder how much of it will be proprietary. Running on both ARM and x86 architecture makes it an interesting product. Let's hope it can handle a bit more processing than the current Android crippleware. Would be interesting to see if it can build a little grid and share computing power over a network. Need more power to play VR games? Add another CPU unit. Would do wonders for sales levels of smartphones and low flops units.

    1. jaduncan

      Re: Open Sourced or Binary Blob?

      TIL that the Linux kernel is crippleware.

      *Shakes head*

      1. ChubbyBehemoth

        Re: Open Sourced or Binary Blob?

        No Linux kernel is fine,.. Android isn't.

    2. Nate Amsden Silver badge

      Re: Open Sourced or Binary Blob?

      I guess by your statement you have no idea what kind of latency hit you'd take trying to share CPU cycles over a network especially for something that needs real time like VR.

      1. ChubbyBehemoth

        Re: Open Sourced or Binary Blob?

        Should be enough to feed video streams. Use composite video grids as well, rendering part of the screen rather than the whole thing per device.

        1. FIA

          Re: Open Sourced or Binary Blob?

          Should be enough to feed video streams. Use composite video grids as well, rendering part of the screen rather than the whole thing per device.

          The problem is telling it what to render. if you have a device 5m away you have a minimum 30 milisecond latency just for the round trip. That's before you've done anything.

        2. jzl

          Re: Open Sourced or Binary Blob?

          VR requires incredibly low latency to avoid that wobbly disconnected feeling when you turn your head. There are lots of good applications for grid computing like you describe, but VR isn't likely to be one of them.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mmmmm BeOS!

    That is all.

  4. Fred Goldstein

    They're saying the right things. A microkernel with drivers in userland is a good thing, so long as the microkernel implements IPC, which is where Mach went wrong. Linux is a clever and well-modified homage to a 1969 minicomputer timesharing system. A modern kernel built with security (don't put much into the kernel) and networking (all networking is IPC) in mind would be welcome.

    1. joeldillon

      The Mach kernel does provide IPC? That's what ports are. You can't implement a microkernel-based OS without IPC, indeed IPC is pretty much all there is in a microkernel.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        But there are things that require close-to-the-metal performance like high-performance graphics and low-latency (usually high-speed) networking. In which case, context switches can be killer and thus these drivers tend to end up in kernel space as a necessary evil.

  5. Emos Eno

    A fresh start with a minimalist light solution would be nice, but I don't see why this would change anything wrt the pushback from equipment manufacturers and network operators that is slowing the rate of updates to a crawl. To combat this problem Google would have to establish completely new terms for distribution of the new system, terms they also could apply to Android if they wanted to.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      >I don't see why this would change anything wrt the pushback from equipment manufacturers and network operators that is slowing the rate of updates to a crawl.

      Because with a different OS architecture, you could update more parts without waiting for an SoC vendor to release a binary blob to an ODM.

  6. Ken 16 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    QNX?

    Micro-kernel architecture, scalable from embedded systems to phones, tablets or desktops?

    Surely that's Blackberry QNX, why re-invent the wheel, especially when the old one was so smooth?

    1. jamesb2147

      Re: QNX?

      I can't tell whether you're joking. QNX as a mobile OS died with Blackberry's smartphone ambitions and doesn't give Google the power to say We Art Better Than Thou and Smarter Than Thou 2.

      To be fair, it's engineers like these that are the real engines behind OS design these days. I strongly suspect they've heard of QNX and considered it.

      1. Fred Goldstein

        Re: QNX?

        QNX is not getting much use nowadays, but it works really well (I am a BB10 user). BB should do something to open it back up, since they are not making much with it any more. Fuschia may well be similar, but not kept locked up by a company that can't figure out how to tie its own shoelaces even when it does have good products.

      2. dajames Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: QNX?

        ... doesn't give Google the power to say We Art Better Than Thou ...

        No, indeed. Not even Google can use a first person pronoun ("we") with a second person verb form ("art") and expect to get away with it!

        That would be evil ...

        1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

          Re: QNX?

          QNX is also used by Ford for their newer Sync Systems

      3. jzl

        Re: QNX?

        QNX didn't die. It's on ice and I'd bet that it's for sale if Google is buying.

        1. FIA

          Re: QNX?

          QNX didn't die. It's on ice and I'd bet that it's for sale if Google is buying.

          I thought QNX was doing quite well, with the rise of IoT and flashy in car stuff? They seem to be hiring...

          https://bb.wd3.myworkdayjobs.com/QNX

          Even thought BB10 died I still think QNX could be quite a smart little buy for BB. It's a well regarded, small, battle tested RTOS that does seem to 'just work'

    2. goldcd

      Because most of the planet

      is covered with water.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Because most of the planet

        >I can't tell whether you're joking. QNX as a mobile OS died with Blackberry's smartphone

        And QNX lives on as it has for decades, battle tested, real time - and a tenth the size of Linux. Google are happy of there are devices around that inform them about their users, but those devices don't have to be phones.

        Still, it'll probably save them headaches if they roll their own OS.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: QNX?

      QNX was for years also the power behind the Reuters trading interfaces because it was stable and worked *really* well. Not sure if it still is in use, but it was safe and very light.

      I suspect that being secure is where it would go wrong with Google. Google needs your data, and needs to hand that data to others for its business model to work. It's not in their interest to make things too safe, unless "safe" means that only they can get hold of it, of course (hence the brute-forcing you into having a Gmail account - at that point you have agreed to their conditions).

  7. jamesb2147

    Mmmmmmm webOS!

    Remember me? I still have major user-facing features that aren't present in a modern smartphone OS! I wish my servers were still up so I could show you what a joy it was to use the "messaging" app and switch seamlessly between SMS, AIM, GTalk, Skype...

    That is all.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Mmmmmmm webOS!

      Apple has been doing that since they introduced iMessage, though obviously the integration goes no further since they have no real desire to support other messaging like AIM (does anyone still use that?) or GTalk.

      I'm really surprised Google never did this for Android, especially since SMS was often on per message pricing back in when Apple introduced iMessage. Even if Google doesn't do it, I find it hard to believe no one developed an Android app that does this...I'll bet there are a dozen of them to choose from.

    2. Peter Gordon

      Re: Mmmmmmm webOS!

      Remember it? I still use a Pre 3 as my only phone. I do try out new phones in the phone shop occasionally, but they're all the same boring slab with the same inelegant OS on them. Just in different sizes with a different name on the back. :-(

      1. AMBxx Silver badge

        Palm Pre

        My wife had one of those. I borrowed it for half a day (it was supposed to be all day, but the battery ran out).

        Nice OS though.

  8. DougS Silver badge

    How does using the Linux kernel prevent Google from distributing Android updates?

    That seems like a crazy excuse, especially since the Linux core of Android has essentially forked from Android some time ago. The real reason they can't distribute updates quickly is because they let the OEMs customize it, thus they depend on the OEMs to port their changes onto new versions before they can be released. Sometimes the carriers add their own customizations too, though presumably that happens less often now that more and more phones are bought for full price and unlocked, instead of the old "free/discounted phone if you sign a contract" days.

    1. asdf Silver badge

      Re: How does using the Linux kernel prevent Google from distributing Android updates?

      >How does using the Linux kernel prevent Google from distributing Android updates?

      It sure doesn't on the Nexus line which is the only Android phones I would buy new under warranty (ironically you can also get even quicker updates out of warranty with Cyan and its ilk). Pretty much a no brainer to only buy new phones from the companies responsible for the OS itself if you want timely updates and support.

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: How does using the Linux kernel prevent Google from distributing Android updates?

      >The real reason they can't distribute updates quickly is because they let the OEMs customize it, thus they depend on the OEMs to port their changes onto new versions before they can be released.

      Doug, you're forgetting a few stages, such as the chip set vendors creating binary blobs that are them passed onto the ODMs.

    3. s2bu

      Re: How does using the Linux kernel prevent Google from distributing Android updates?

      Easy: proprietary drivers.

      1. Emos Eno

        Re: How does using the Linux kernel prevent Google from distributing Android updates?

        Why would manufacturers be more keen to accept a demand for no proprietary drivers or other binary blobs in the new OS than in Android?

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: How does using the Linux kernel prevent Google from distributing Android updates?

          "Why would manufacturers be more keen to accept a demand for no proprietary drivers or other binary blobs in the new OS than in Android?"

          I think the idea is that if more of these blobs can be moved to Userland, the kernel is easier to update whether they're updated or not. In other words, the kernel doesn't have to be held hostage by patent-protected hardware whose code is only provided in blobs at the manufacturer's pleasure.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How does using the Linux kernel prevent Google from distributing Android updates?

      Although it's not settled law, contributing code to the kernel triggers the surrender of enormous amounts of software AND hardware patent rights to Linux and anyone else who wants to use it, thanks to the GPL poison-pill-patent-clause license. This may well mean that Google needs to roll its own OS to get the features it needs, or else keep hands strictly off and wait for Linus to someday get around to it before they can distribute features and updates they'd like to see.

      1. Goobertee

        Re: How does using the Linux kernel prevent Google from distributing Android updates?

        "...GPL poison-pill-patent-clause license...".

        Oh, good! It's the old FUD that GPL takes away all your rights and your firstborn children and your dog runs away and everything. That's not the GPL, Ms/Mr AC. The GPL is a choice of license, not a surrender.

        So how are you and Steve and Bill and Satya getting along these days fighting the software cancer?

      2. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: How does using the Linux kernel prevent Google from distributing Android updates?

        "Although it's not settled law, contributing code to the kernel triggers the surrender of enormous amounts of software AND hardware patent rights to Linux and anyone else who wants to use it, thanks to the GPL poison-pill-patent-clause license."

        Incorrect. The poison-pill clause only exists in GPLv3, while the kernel by necessity (due to the wide codebase) is still at GPLv2. Anyway, containerization provides a way to safely run proprietary, patented code in an open kernel without surrendering patent protections.

    5. Daniel Palmer

      Re: How does using the Linux kernel prevent Google from distributing Android updates?

      >since the Linux core of Android has essentially forked from Android some time ago

      Google maintain a patch set for Linux that they have been gradually getting mainlined.. not really all that different from the kernel RHEL etc use that ship with vendor patches. Hardly a fork.

    6. fuzzie

      Re: How does using the Linux kernel prevent Google from distributing Android updates?

      In several cases the OEMs have to customize it, e.g. adding back USB Mass Storage, Dual SIM, Bluetooth car kit profiles, and better power management. They also often fix bugs that Google ignore. Nexus is only released in one/two territories, i.e. Google only needs to do certification in those (FCC/CE/UL/etc). OEMs sell in many more markets and have to certify for each of those. And, every time you change the kernel, you have to recertify (both time consuming and expensive).

      1. Daniel Palmer

        Re: How does using the Linux kernel prevent Google from distributing Android updates?

        "And, every time you change the kernel, you have to recertify (both time consuming and expensive)."

        Can you provide a link that proves that? Please keep in mind that a lot of the radio stuff in Android is in userland and not the kernel itself.

  9. LINCARD1000
    Devil

    And I wonder how much telemetry it would be passing back to the Gobble mothership after installation - is this Google's Windows 10?

    They monetize everything, Shirley they're not doing this out as a freebie to world+dog out of the goodness of their shriveled, black, advertising-bedecked hearts?

    1. Jim Birch

      Telemetry works quite nicely now, doesn't it?

  10. Long John Brass Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Lost my interest and lunch at C++

    Because we all know that a big dose of OOP always makes things better and faster

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lost my interest and lunch at C++

      FWIW, not all OOP is necessarily as bad as that aspect of C++

      1. Long John Brass Silver badge
        Gimp

        Re: Lost my interest and lunch at C++

        FWIW, not all OOP is necessarily as bad as that aspect of C++

        Quite right; It's often worse; See Java

      2. Wilseus

        Re: Lost my interest and lunch at C++

        There's nothing at all wrong with the idea of OOP of course, but the way it's implemented in C++ is one of the things (but not the only thing) that makes it a fucking horrible language. I hate it.

    2. Steve Todd

      Re: Lost my interest and lunch at C++

      OOP isn't about making things faster, it's about isolating functional blocks from each other. C++ will let you write bad code, but done properly it can produce robust, testable code that isn't much slower than raw C. If you think otherwise you're doing it wrong (and yes, I've seen an awful lot of programmers who claim to understand OOP who don't)

      1. Christian Berger Silver badge

        Re: Lost my interest and lunch at C++

        Let me fix that for you: "C++ will let you write code that looks completely innocent, but turns out to be a major security issue because the designers of C++ made some weird decisions in their early days".

        The Problem with C++ is that it has grown far beyond the realms of human cognition. While it is possible to read C++ code, it's rather hard to read in real world projects. Only if you restrict yourself to a small subset of it, you might have a chance. The problem is, if you have a team, you may have non overlapping subsets of the language being used by individual members.

        My guess is that Google is experiencing the same "brain drain" many companies have. They just cannot get/keep top notch people the way they used to. Adding to that, there's an emerging group of programmers who grew up with Windows from the time it kinda worked. Those people believe that it's economically possible to write a working operating system on C++, because they have seen Microsoft doing that. They never experienced how small and simple an operating system can be, if you base it on the UNIX philosophy. For them C/C++ is the "state of the art".

    3. dajames Silver badge

      Re: Lost my interest and lunch at C++

      Because we all know that a big dose of OOP always makes things better and faster

      OOP is only one of the things you can do with C++, you know.

      The article doesn't mention OOP, so there's no reason to suppose that that's how C++ is being used.

      ... and, anyway, the point of OOP isn't to make things faster, it's to make it easier to understand them in the hope that those working on them will make fewer mistakes, and end up with something more reliable. I'm not suggesting that that's always the outcome, just that speed isn't everything.

  11. Andrew Jones 2

    "Google's brand new OS could replace Android" well... nope - pretty certain like 150% certain that Google have not spent 6 years building a developer community, getting more and more involved with the the development community and generally addressing the complaints of the users (admittedly - not all of them) - to then go back to the drawing board and start from scratch. It's only a few weeks ago that the Android development team did an AMA - none of these things are the signs of a project that is about to be superseded by an entirely new OS. A Google OS for tablets and Desktops running Windows, yup - that I can easily see happening.

    1. Measurer

      Ha...

      and give it a Win7 desktop, winner!

    2. fuzzie

      If they retain the same syscall and other low-level interfaces, combined with their not-quite-libc, would anyone notice/care if they swapped out the kernel underneath Android? Extremely few people tinker that low down the stack.

  12. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    "It boots on ARM and x86..."

    LOL.

    Get used to this sort of thing.

    Eventually it's all going to merge into one big lump.

    Architectures, ecosystems, languages, environments...

    1. Christian Berger Silver badge

      That actually was the original idea behind Windows NT

      It was meant to run everywhere (386, PPC, Alpha...) and support software written for many operating systems (WinAPI, OS/2, Posix, Mac). The problem with Microsoft was, that they never finished the things they were announcing.

      In a way that seems to be a common theme with software written in "modern OOP"-languages like C++. Instead of focusing on small modular programs that do one thing right and only one thing, you end up with a hugely complex mess of binary APIs meant to do anything, but you replace them after a couple of years anyhow.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: That actually was the original idea behind Windows NT

        That presents a problem of its own. You're describing a process chain, and you know what they say about chains. Problem is, weak links aren't always obvious; problems can cascade and create non-obvious failures down the line when the failing process isn't really at fault. Trying to fix weak links is okay if you can access every single link, but Android is held hostage by stingy equipment manufacturers bent on protecting patents and trade secrets, meaning some of the links are impenetrable black boxes. Fixing broken chains with black boxes for links isn't always possible (because the black box could be the weak link but no replacement for it is available).

  13. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Happy

    I thought so

    I was wondering how long it would take for Google to show Oracle the middle finger.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I thought so

      Hum... I see your point, but how long it would take for Google to show either Android developers the middle finger in both hands (unless the APIs, etc. are compatible). Or, how long it would take for Google to get people interested and then dropping the new OS as it dropped tools before?

      Remember Orkut. And Wave. And several others that had some people involved on it then were killed when Google lost its interest.

  14. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Problem...

    ...will be with applications.

    Will we be able to use our existing apps on the new OS, or will that require a major rewrite as well? Windows phone flopped because of poor app support, any OS lives and dies with its apps.

    1. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: Problem...

      How dare you say that Windows Phone flopped, I know someone who uses a Lumia 1020. She deliberately chose...Ah no wait I've just remembered it was given to her by her husband who had been given it at work. She is very happy with it and still uses....Ah no wait I've just remembered she got an iPhone instead......

    2. The Indomitable Gall

      Re: Problem...

      " Will we be able to use our existing apps on the new OS, or will that require a major rewrite as well? Windows phone flopped because of poor app support, any OS lives and dies with its apps. "

      I'd be very surprised if you couldn't. Remember that app developers are basically coding for the Dalvik VM, and the real machine level code is in Google's libraries and the infamous "binary blob". I doubt Google will ever set it loose in the real world if they can't port the Android userspace onto it (and the ChromeOS one, for good measure).

  15. Big_Ted
    Thumb Up

    Re using appsfrom Android.

    I don't see the problem, Google are already sorting the ability to only load as much of an app as need to view what you want. So if you have a link it just loads part of the app.

    Add to that API's being sorted to work with either OS (As they are already doing with android apps on ChromeOS) and I don't see a problem.

    If they came out with an OS that was more secure than Android, ran all the apps and had other added features plus fast updates I would buy it tomorrow.

    1. The Indomitable Gall

      Re: Re using appsfrom Android.

      " If they came out with an OS that was more secure than Android, ran all the apps "

      And there's the rub. Why is Windows such a security nightmare? Because fixing security holes properly breaks backwards compatibility.

  16. Jonathan 27 Bronze badge

    Yeah...

    They had to do something to make user-mode drivers a reality. I'm not surprised Google is trying this. But it's not likely that it will replace Android. It's more likely to be a new Android that this forms the kernel of.

  17. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Core control

    About that Linux flame war - One consistent problem with Android is CPU core control. I have yet to see a governor determine accurately determine how many CPUs are needed and how fast they should be running. They need to know how many tasks may execute concurrently and whether or not intermittent loads are coming from a single operation (latency sensitive) or many operations (not sensitive). The hacks that try to make this work will make you cringe.

    A new mobile OS that can control the CPU cores better could have at least 50% more battery life and 50% better performance for everyday tasks. A full-throttle benchmark would look the same, of course, but most uses are bursty.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Core control

      Last I checked, that's not an Android issue. That's an ARM issue as even ARM-based Linux distros like Raspbian have to deal with the problem (and guess where the CPU governors Android uses come from).

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dump and run

    If this OS does replace Android ? Chrome OS It will be interesting how long after this OS debuts that Google loose interest and stop developing and supporting android and or Chrome OS.

    They have a history of folding projects.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    C/C++ vs Rust

    Honest question: if developing a new OS, wouldn't Rust be a good choice of language?

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: C/C++ vs Rust

      If they have coders familiar with the language, maybe. There IS a microkernel OS named Redox OS being coded in Rust, so it is theoretically possible.

  20. Miss Config
    Thumb Up

    I have seen the Fuschia and it works

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Works as in what? Can it run Android apps out of the box?

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