Google's 'Andromeda' looks to be hiding in plain sight

Android Statue
Android Statue (Image credit: Android Central)

Update May 8, 2017: The Hotfix blog has a look at the UI in its current state and Google shows us what Flutter apps will look like.

If you were to take the time to build the Flutter-based interface that's available for Fuchsia right now, you'd have a pretty good look at the way things are drawn and animated. The Hotfix blog has done just that and their video is a good look at where things are today. While it's not very functional, it's still really cool to watch something new as it develops.

If you want to go a step further Google has you covered. New in Google Play, the Flutter Gallery app (opens in new tab) is a demo of how applications can look and act when written in Flutter, which is how "native" Fuchsia apps are written right now.

Flutter is a mobile app SDK that can be used to build the user interface for both Android and iOS apps. It's still a tech preview so you probably won't find developers releasing apps that use it but plenty of them are interested! Flutter should make it fairly easy to create apps that look fabulous for mobile, and most of all are consistent between platforms. Google will have more to say about Flutter at Google I/O and we'll be paying attention.

No matter what happens with Andromeda and Fuchsia, Flutter is something to keep an eye on.

As for any Fuchsia or Andromeda tie-in, we won't see any consumer product using any of this for a while so all of this is apt to change. Or it may just go away completely. But if you're curious about what might be or how things may change, you'll get a pretty good idea.

The original post continues below.

Set your way back machines to August 2016, and one of the things you might see is talking about a mystery operating system from Google named Fuchsia. We took a look at it when people started noticing it was being worked on and got some really cool clues about what might be going on.

More: 'Fuchsia' operating system project is interesting, lacking details that make it matter

Work on the project hasn't slowed and now semiconductor analyst Daniel Matte's blog Tech Specs has a new take on a more mature Fuchsia, and why it's where Andromeda is going to start.

Matte has taken a second deep look into how Fuchsia is going to be built and what it might be able to do. The very basics are in place — a new LK-based microkernel dubbed Magenta will power an operating system designed from the ground up to be modular and adaptable to most any modern hardware. Combine Magenta with a new rendering engine (escher) and a user interface layer based on the Dart programming language with an all-new widget and application framework named Flutter to bring it all front and center and you have what Fuchsia needs to become an actual living piece of software.

I think for all Fuchsia devices, the Android API and runtime will continue to function as before, except now the underlying OS will be Fuchsia, and the kernel will be Magenta, not Linux.

Matte says this is going to be Andromeda. And he has plenty of evidence to support his idea. Fuchsia isn't hidden. All the work on the kernel, the framework, and associated bits and pieces is being done in the open where anyone with an interest can have a look. It's been this way from the beginning, and as it evolves it becomes a bit easier to guess what Google is trying to do here.

After some communication with people at Google Matte has more insight about what we're seeing here as well as what's to come. Andromeda sounds like the interface and application layer for large-screen devices like tablets and laptops. Running atop Fuchsia and leveraging scalable floating windows, Andromeda could look very much like Chrome and be optimized for mouse and keyboard use as well as touch. In other words, very much like the Chrome OS we have today but using the newer more modular Fuchsia as a base.

Fuchsia and the Magenta kernel can also power the Android runtime and application framework, and Matte suggests that this will happen. Eventually, the Android runtimes will be phased out in favor of newer, but compatible, software like Mojo. This would be of little consequence for the end user but offer developers and hardware manufacturers more ways to build the things we want to use.

More: How Google can use Andromeda to conquer everything

Based on the code that's been checked into the project so far, Matte suggests we're seeing a ground-up operating system designed to run on ARM, MIPS, and Intel x86 processors. It's not a merging of Chrome and Android, but a new system that can power Google's existing products — Chrome and Android — while furthering a new application platform to be ready for the evolution of hardware.

I agree with his assessment. What I see tells me that this all-in-one OS will attempt to fix the pitfalls of shoehorning a PC system onto smartphone hardware or doing the opposite and using an Android style platform with more capable PC hardware. All-in-one systems will happen and are going to be the future, and Google is trying to find ways their existing products can fit into it. But Google can't abandon two wildly successful products and instead has to start at the bottom so change can come while support for the software we use can continue.

Maybe everyone looking at Fuchsia and Andromeda is wrong. That's certainly a possibility. But Google is working on something that's going to be big. Whether or not it will also be successful is the question. We can't wait to find out.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • I thought that Andromeda was the merging of Chrome OS and Android, and I thought that being on a Samsung Chromebook Plus, I was as good as already there?
  • That depends on what exactly Fuchsia/Andromeda ends up being. It might be a system where the two previous OSes are more integrated with each other (Android apps having access to the SD Card, for instance) than is possible in the Android-on-ChromeOS system that's currently being implemented. There might be something bigger UI side, too, or something like Microsoft's Continuum for Andromeda phones, where you'd dock and have a different interface on a different screen. It's hard to say exactly what the end goal is, given we haven't heard anything official yet. Could always just be a testing grounds for Google experiments, too. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • No one ever promised and you can tell by using Android apps on chrome, especially with an Intel based processor, that it is far from ready.
  • My Android apps run just fine on the ARM based Plus model.
  • I thought Andromeda was a windows thing....I would look into that google!
  • What I wonder is whether this will be something certain devices (Chromebooks, Pixel phones) will be able to upgrade to, or if you'll have to buy hardware intended for it outright. I'd expect the latter, but the former would be extremely impressive it worked, even just for Developers.
  • It's all about the $$$ ;)
  • Not with Google, it isn't. Google doesn't make their money selling hardware or operating systems. As long as you use the Internet and see Google ads, they're happy. Google would make money if you clicked through on an Internet-connected banana.
  • They don't like supporting devices for more than 2 year maximum. I highly doubt anything in current circulation has a chance. That doesn't even take into account Qualcomm who can decide to cut off support as well which companies like Google use as reasons not to push updates (Nexus 5 for example)
  • Oh yeah, I'm sure nothing -today- is going to be a potential for it, because it's probably at least a few years away anyhow. But at some point there has to be hardware they're testing on internally, and Google does like their developer kits. I was thinking about Google-made devices that come out in the year before the release of this OS. (I figure there will be more Pixel phones and Chromebooks and such between now and then.)
  • It would be nice to have the same experience across the board. I'm not an expert, But I think ARM chips will be in a whole lot more powerful devices going forward. Maybe Intel will build one also. This would kind of make it easier to integrate everything. I guess programming does that too.
  • I don't think the goal is going to be the same experience across the board. If you do that you either have a bad experience on mobile because of the limited screen real estate and touch interface or a dumbed-down version on a "desktop" platform because it was designed for that small, touch-based experience. Android is an example of the same platform and the same applications offering a different but familiar UX. Android on the TV, a phone, and a watch is the exact same codebase and framework. You can tell you're using the same platform when you use any of them, but the experience is designed to best fit the device it's running on. It's a start, but they have to do a better job, especially with third party apps. Maybe building something from the ground up can fix those issues, maybe not.
  • Maybe a similar experience is what we should hope for. I'm nowhere near one to predict where we should go. I just like where we are going.
  • Agree on all counts :) The future looks fun
  • I hope this turns into an OS that goes from desktop to tablet mode like Windows 10, but does better at both. Windows 10 tablet mode is lacking and awkward to me. I love the 2 in 1 design, but the software doesn't seem to be there yet.
  • From what the article says I don't think the point of Andromeda is going to be an all in one system for specific hardware. It seems like the point is actually an all in one system for any hardware.
  • Andromeda Strain!
  • Perhaps this is what Google is building to compete with Windows 10 and OS X, now that Android apps on ChromeOS hasn't had good reputation, even on a Google fansite like The Verge, they're telling most Android apps on ChromeOS not build by Google are buggy, even Facebook which is supported by hundreds of developers.
  • 1. The Verge is a crappy site with very little in the way of professionalism or actual journalism.
    2. They, like everyone else, are reviewing PREPRODUCTION hardware running BETA software.
    3. My Chromebook Plus runs android apps just fine.
    4. Chromebooks are outselling MacBooks...especially in what used to be Apple's stronghold, the educational market.
  • Chromebooks outsold MacBooks in that one quarter in 2016 but are they still outselling them. The only info I can find on this is about that one quarter. I wonder if this last quarter when Apple released new MacBooks if this is still the case. I know the new MacBooks are selling quite well regardless of what the disappointed "pro" says. Do you have any current sales info to share ? Thanks.
  • "Matte suggests we're seeing a ground-up operating system designed to run on ARM, MIPS, and Intel x86 processors
    What I see tells me that this all-in-one OS will attempt to fix the pitfalls of shoehorning a PC system onto smartphone hardware or doing the opposite and using an Android style platform with more capable PC hardware. All-in-one systems will happen" Am I the only one that read the article. This OS has the potential to compete with MS Windows. It will work on desktops and phones. MS is trying this approach with Win 10 but not gaining much ground. I'm sure MS is sweating. I doubt Google will have much success either. They don't stick with a project long enough to perfect it and just jump to something else.
  • Speaking of Google jumping onto a new project before perfecting it- I hope they aren't planning on ditching Android for this new os
  • Think of Android as a tiny part of the operating system that runs on a Galaxy S7. (it's not nearly that simple, but it's an easy way to talk about how it works) Android is the part that allows Android apps to run and does nothing else. It communicates with the "host" operating system so applications can use hardware for things like location, 3D acceleration or device storage. This is why Android can run on BlackBerry 10. Or Tizen, Or Meego or almost any other operating system. The application framework and middleware is portable and would be able to run atop whatever Google is doing next, if they are doing something differently. Let's say everything in this article is true. There's a very good chance a user would never know the difference and everything would look and function exactly the same as it does now. The parts that were changed would be under the user interface and provide the same function as Linux + "Android" as we know it today. Android is far too valuable to abandon. Google never abandons anything valuable, even though we think the things they toss aside were valuable. Love 'em or hate 'em, Google is really good at working several steps ahead and being ready for what comes next.
  • Is everything that runs on Andromeda/Fuchsia going to be just blown up phone apps like the Android tablet apps always are and the Android apps on Chromebooks? Is this new merging just going to be a bunch of phone apps running on laptops? Do companies put effort into their Chome apps right now?
  • Just give me a 5.8 inch ChromeOS device with Google Play and SIM card..:)
  • How much you want to bet that Fuchsia / Andromeda / Flutter / whatever will NOT be nearly as open as current Android. Google's been aiming for much more control for years, and I suspect this will be the final nail in the coffin of vendors' ability to heavily customize the OS, and independents to build new ROMs off the open source code. I'll bet rooting it will break all kinds of functionality, too. Google needs a much more secure OS than Android for the future, and rooting compromises security bigly.
  • Lol at eyeglasses
  • I would like to visit review page of Andromeda. I can't believe everyone but I'll imagine full picture about Andromeda because of these reviews. I also recommend you to visit doahomework to find you homework help.