Google’s Fuchsia OS is taking over smart displays, now on its second device

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enlarge / Google’s Nest Hub Max is a 10-inch smart display designed to view photos, make video calls, control smart home devices, and access the Google Assistant, among other things. The speakers aren’t the best, though, and there’s no physical shutter for the built-in camera.

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The kingdom of Google’s third major operating system, Fuchsia, is getting a little bigger today. 9to5Google reports that Google has completed the rollout of Fuchsia to the Google Nest Hub Max. Together with the original Nest Hub/Google Home Hub, that puts two of Google’s three smart displays on the new operating system, with the only being the 2nd-generation Nest Hub. The Nest Hub Max is the first device with Fuchsia that Google currently sells – the Home Hub only got Fuchsia after it was discontinued.

The Google Smart Display user interface is: written in Flutter, a Google programming language designed for portability, running on Android, iOS, Fuchsia, and the weird cast platform Nest Hubs typically use. So it’s not correct to describe the UI as “similar” after the OS switch – it’s the exact same code because Flutter runs on almost everything. However, you get a slightly newer code version and it comes with a Bluetooth menu. If you dive into the settings and click ‘about device’ you will see a ‘Fuchsia version’ field with something like ‘6.20211109.1.3166243’.

It’s kind of weird to switch an entire OS to the futuristic, secretive Fuchsia project and then basically show (or say) nothing for it in terms of obvious improvements in performance or security. You can dive into the details of the Fuchsia source code, but it remains a mystery in terms of what practical benefits it brings to consumers. Google never talks about Fuchsia, so not much is known about what exactly Google achieves here.

Smart displays find a good home

Some of this OS switch might just be out of necessity. Google’s smart displays have not traditionally had a strong operating system foundation within the company, so perhaps Fuchsia represents a way for smart displays to get on board with a viable Google platform. The first Google Smart Displays were from third-party manufacturers and they used Android Things, a stripped-down version of Android designed for IoT devices and smart displays. Android Things was discontinued in early 2021, so that is no longer an option for smart displays.

Google’s internal smart displays have made the odd decision to use an offshoot of the Google Cast platform, an operating system originally developed for the Chromecast. Building full touchscreen interaction and a full UI in the Cast OS was a huge change for something that was previously just a video and slideshow receiver, but that’s the plan Google went with. When the actual Chromecast line had to undergo an equally dramatic change with a full UI, it was not done upgraded its own Cast OS and switched to Android TV (now called Google TV) instead.

Does the Cast OS have a future at Google? It doesn’t look like the product’s original hardware, the Chromecast, will want much to do with it in the future. If Google wants to compete with Roku, that means even the cheapest Chromecast has to run full Android TV and have a remote. Android TV still has all the simplicity benefits of a Chromecast: you can just fire media at it with a single press of the phone button, but it also adds installable media apps and games. If the Chromecast abandons its eponymous OS, the only things that will support Cast OS are smart speakers. Cast OS could die out completely, or it could be scaled down to just be a zero user interface, embedded smart speaker operating system.

Fuchsia is interesting because it is one of the few operating systems that is not based on Linux. The kernel is called “Zircon” and the Fuchsia project describes itself as “a new open source operating system created from the kernel at Google to meet the needs of today’s growing ecosystem of connected devices.” Fuchsia originally claimed it would one day work on smart screens, speakers, laptops and smartphones, but as shown above, the operating system roadmap on the fringes of Google can change very often. It’s hard to imagine a project bringing down Android or Chrome OS, but Google isn’t afraid of product duplication.


The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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