Google May Want to Run Android Apps on Its Mysterious Fuchsia OS

Google May Want to Run Android Apps on Its Mysterious Fuchsia OS

Google released the first code for its mysterious Fuchsia operating system in 2016, but its plans for the platform are still unknown. After getting an interesting but strange user interface last year, Fuchsia now has a hint of Android app support. New updates to the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) suggest Google is working to port the Android Runtime to Fuchsia. That could mean Android apps running on Fuchsia.

Android has become the most used computing platform in the world partially because it’s based on open source Linux code. Anyone can download Android and configure it to run on their device. You only have to deal with Google if you want to get access to those sweet Google apps and services. Android benefits from its Linux roots, but it also comes with all of Linux’s baggage. Many of the Android security issues that show up in monthly patches are in the Linux kernel, and the system is not as fast as it could be.

Fuchsia is not based on Linux, which allowed Google to start from scratch with a fancy new microkernel called Zircon (formerly Magenta). However, any attempt to make a clean break with Android in the future would leave Fuchsia without an app catalog. It would also make testing the software internally a bit of a pain. It looks like Google’s solution to that is to run Android apps natively inside Fuchsia.

According to the proposed change in AOSP, the Zircon kernel could have the Android Runtime (ART) included to run Android apps. ART is the Android virtual machine that compiles an app’s bytecode into native code for the phone. In recent versions of the OS, ART runs as a “just-in-time” compiler that processes code as it’s needed. You would still need some sort of slim virtual Linux environment running in Fuchsia to make apps work, but the AOSP change suggests this is a possibility.

Fuchsia OS just showed up in AOSP, but most importantly, in the ART (Android Runtime) branch. Looks like they're building Fuchsia with ART…which would suggest native Android app support.

— Mishaal Rahman (@MishaalRahman) April 26, 2018

Of course, Fuchsia is still far from any consumer release. Sources tell 9to5Google that ART support is being considered mainly as a way to test Fuchsia on internal Google devices without needing to develop new software. It’s possible we’ll never see Android apps running on Fuchsia, or running anything at all. This is still an early project that could be killed, merged into something else, or repurposed for non-consumer applications. Google’s annual I/O developer conference is coming up in a few weeks, so maybe we’ll hear a bit about Fuchsia this year.