What, exactly, does Google want to do with Fuchsia? The answer isn’t any clearer now than when news broke about the Google-created operating system seven years ago. But after a recent round of Google layoffs, the project may be in peril in a way that long-standing products like Android and Chrome OS are not. The recent reduction in headcount has hit the internal project particularly hard, leaving its future more in question than ever.
According to a report by the New York Times, 16 percent of the 400-strong Fuchsia team is getting the axe. That’s a pretty huge cut for any workforce, but Fuchsia is particularly hard-hit. As Ars Technica notes, the cut to the development team is more than double the company-wide cut of six percent. With dozens of employees gone or soon to be, it’s hard to imagine that Fuchsia will continue with its current steam…if it has any to begin with.
If you’re wondering what Fuschia OS is, you’re not alone — possibly not even within the halls of Google itself. On paper, Fuschia could be almost anything. It’s an open-source operating system, a la Chrome or Android, but built on a custom kernel, not an existing codebase like Linux or Unix. In its nebulous state it could be applied to smartphones, tablets, laptops, or all three. The operating system is more than capable of running modern apps and browsers, and speculation has been that it could be a combined next-gen OS meant to unify Google’s consumer-focused offerings. But if Fuchsia is the future of Google software, it doesn’t seem like the company is in any rush to get there.
Google has released versions of Fuchsia that can run on its own Pixel-branded Chromebooks (which themselves are now few and far between), but to date the only hardware that officially runs Fuchsia in a released state is the Google Nest Hub smart home line. The Fuchsia update replicated the previous software, which was similar to the Chromecast, with no notable user-facing changes or feature additions.
What does the future hold for Fuchsia? At this point things don’t look that bright. Google has earned, if not exactly cultivated, a reputation for starting and abandoning projects. With Android and Chrome doing fine (though not exactly conquering the world like they were a few years ago), Fuchsia would seem to be an obvious target for cost-cutting efforts. That hasn’t happened yet, though chopping off a significant percentage of the development team is an ominous sign.