What is Google Fuchsia? First look at the mysterious new operating system

Google is working on a third operating system to join Android and Chrome OSReuters

Google is working on a mysterious new operating system called Fuchsia, and for the first time we now have an idea of what it will look like.

A third operating system to sit alongside Android (predominantly for smartphone and tablets) and Chrome OS (simple, affordable laptops), Fuchsia is being built on an entirely new set of foundations. Where Android and Chrome OS are based on the widely used Linux framework, Fuchsia uses a new system developed by Google and called Magenta.

The first sneak-peek of Fuchsia's interface comes from a video published on YouTube by Kyle Bradshaw, along with an accompanying tutorial on how to use Fuchsia on Hot Fix, a computer repair site.

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Fuchsia is shown running on a smartphone environment, with the same toolbar and associated icons as Android at the top of the screen, and the same on-screen home button at the bottom.

Called Armadillo, the interface is made up of a home screen with cards for each application above, similar to those used by Google Now on Android. Tapping on a card expands it to take up the entire display. These cards can be dragged around the screen, lined up next to each other in a split-screen layout, or piled on top of each other in one window, like internet browser tabs.

Below the home card sits an interface even more reminiscent of Google Now, complete with content suggested to the user by Google.

Given how the applications and Google suggestions are mostly blank, and even each app's name is just placeholder text, this fledgling version of Fuchsia is clearly a long way from completion. But this video, along with a gallery of screenshots produced by Ars Technica, gives a clear indication that Google is busy working on something entirely new.

Where Fuchsia might appear once complete is up for debate. Two Google developers linked to the project, Christopher Anderson and Brian Swetland, are both experts in embedded systems – computers with single, specific functions and no need for a complex operating system or user interface. But Google's own description of Magenta, on which Fuchsia is built, states: "Magenta targets modern phones and modern personal computers with fast processors, non-trivial amounts of RAM with arbitrary peripherals doing open ended computation."

It is unclear what Google's plans for Fuchsia and Magenta are for now, and a finished version may never see the light of day. But with the company's I/O developer conference kicking off on 17 May, we might be about to find out.

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