Google is still suffering from last Friday’s biggest layoff in company history. Previous cost cuts over the past six months have caused several projects at Google to be shelved or deprioritised, and it’s difficult to lay off 12,000 employees without hurting a few additional projects. the New York Times has a report on which departments are being hit hardest, and a big one is Google’s future OS development group Fuchsia.
While the entire company cut 6 percent of its workforce, the Times pointed out that Fuchsia hit a staggering 16 percent of its 400-person workforce. While it’s not clear what this means for the future of the division, Fuchsia’s future was never really clear.
Fuchsia has been a constant mystery within Google since it first garnered widespread press coverage in 2017. Google rarely talks about it officially, mostly leaving rumors and Github documentation to find out what’s going on. The OS isn’t a small project, though – it’s not even based on Linux, instead opting to use a custom, internal kernel, allowing Google to truly build a complete OS from the ground up. Google is actually shipping the operating system to consumers today in its Nest Smart Displays, where it replaces the older Cast OS. The in-place OS replacement was completely invisible to consumers compared to the old OS, had no benefits, and was never officially announced or promoted. There’s not much you can do with it on a locked smart display, so even after shipping, Fuchsia is still a mystery.
The biggest questions surrounding Fuchsia are, “Why does it exist and what are its goals?” Is Fuchsia an eventual replacement for Android or Chrome OS? Around 2018, when we first got Fuchsia running on a Pixelbook, the source code documentation for the custom kernel said it was “targeted at modern phones and modern PCs with fast processors,” which certainly makes it look like a successor to Android and /or Chrome OS sound built for flagship devices. This early code base also included graphical user interfaces for PCs and phones, further making clear that this was a consumer operating system. After first gaining notoriety, Fuchsia removed its public interface code.
In 2018 there was also a founding Bloomberg report calling Fuchsia the “successor to Android” and saying the team planned to launch on smart speakers in 2021 (which was spot on) and would later move to phones and laptops in 2023. Even the name “Fuchsia” was a nod to Apple projects some members of the team were involved with. “pink‘ was the codename for a canceled successor to the classic Mac OS, and ‘Purple’ was the codename for the iPhone OS. The fuchsia color is a mix of pink and purple, so it all sounded very ambitious.
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