Let's talk about Andromeda

Android dudes
Android dudes (Image credit: Jerry Hildenbrand / Android Central)

I got to completely geek out when Daniel Matte wrote up the things he found about Andromeda while looking through some Google source code earlier this week. It reinforced a lot of the things I thought when I first looked through all the code in August 2016, caught a lot more things that I overlooked, and examined the new code. I think Matte's assessments are pretty close to the mark here. Not because they confirmed some of my original thoughts, but because it points out things I got wrong. Or at least I think I got them wrong. Everything about Andromeda or Fuchsia is still just educated guessing.

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

At this point, I think we have a pretty good idea of where Google is going with Andromeda, Fuchsia, Android and Chrome. The future looks like it will be all about consolidating everything without making things the same. I've been digging and chatting and poking things for a couple days and that's my conclusion.

The Pixel C should have shipped with Fuchsia. Maybe the next one will.

The Pixel C should have shipped with Fuchsia. Maybe the next one will.

Fuchsia is where we need to start. Fuchsia is a way to replace Linux and become an operating system for Chrome and Android to run on. Android is kind of weird. It can be built as an all-in-one OS waiting for some hardware support to be added making it ready to run, or it can also be a runtime(s) and support files for applications. The Nexus 6P is using Android as an operating system, the BlackBerry Classic is using Android as an application platform atop another operating system. If you were to hack Google's apps (Google Play, Play Services, etc) onto the Classic it could do everything the Nexus 6P can do when it comes to Android apps, even though it's not using "Android" as the operating system.

Fuchsia will work with the Android runtime and support everything using compatible APIs. In other words, we won't see any difference but the people developing Android will.

The future where everything is the same but different makes sense when done right.

Fuchsia will also power Andromeda. We have already seen stage one of Andromeda when Google Play came to some Chromebooks. Right now, Chrome OS is basically a user interface and application platform running on a fairly standard Linux kernel and middleware. If that sounds confusing, just think of Chrome OS as something like Ubuntu. That's close enough for what we're talking about here. Android apps run in Chrome natively, but not really natively. There's a layer that talks to Android apps and talks to that middleware through Chrome that makes it seamless to the user. That layer is step one of Andromeda.

Fuchsia will work with the Chrome application platform and framework and support everything with compatible APIs. In other words, we won't see any difference but the people developing Chromium will.

It looks like Andromeda and Fuchsia is a hybrid of Android and Chrome, but not the way people thought it would be. It's the software underneath it all that's being changed to support everything. And that's about as awesome as it gets for people who work with Android and Chrome every day.

More: How Google can use Andromeda to conquer everything

You and I are end users for Android and Chrome. We appreciate the changes (or hate them) to the operating system but are familiar with them both and choose to use them instead of something else. Changing that and offering something that looks and feels different is risky. Keep giving people the things they want to buy.

A universal OS is hard because not all screens are the same size.

Developers benefit from having one operating system that powers both platforms. As things advance, the lines between what a Chrome app is and what an Android app is will blur until there is only one app that runs on both. Developers can target the mobile, touch-friendly version or the full pointer-driven version, or both. This eliminates the biggest drawback to what Ubuntu and Microsoft are doing because a universal interface just won't work on a 4.5-inch screen and a 30-inch monitor.

Or everyone thinking about it all and guessing could be completely wrong. Wouldn't be the first time.

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.

  • Interesting article, thanks for explaining it all.
  • It's gonna be yuge.
  • I thought this was going to be an article about the new Mass Effect game.
  • Mass effect? I thought that game was based on Gene Roddenberry's ill fated TV series...
  • I thought it was going to be about our universal galactic neighbor.
  • Man we all must got mass effect on the brain March 21st
  • Jerry, would you recommend the 32GB or 128GB Google Pixel XL?
  • Not Jerry, but I'd said get the 128gb. More storage is always welcome, especially since they don't offer SD card slots.
  • Only you can know how much storage you need based on your current usage. Given that there is no expandable storage in Pixel 128 GB is better since you never know when the additional storage will come handy. Go for 128 GB if are lucky enough to get hold of one.
  • I suggest getting whatever is in stock first.
  • I suggest you get a better phone.
  • Look at the phone you have now. If most of the space being used is for pictures or video, go with 32. I did and I'm sitting here with 20GB or so free on my pixel and XL.
  • What's the drawback to what Microsoft are doing?
  • That Microsoft are doing it?
  • Oh how hilarious. Serious answers please.
  • Obviously Jerry doesn't know much of Microsoft plans and just makes a comment on what he makes up from a headline he read somewhere ;)
  • Not sure what your point is. I at no point said Jerry was wrong or didn't know what he was talking about. Don't worry I've got it noted now not to ask any serious questions here in future as nobody seems to be able to handle them.
  • Probably their .3% mobile market share
  • Hilarious. They chose to do that though. It's not like they're pushing out multiple handsets still.
  • Pick an app from a windows phone. Any app. Now imagine it on a PC with a 30-inch monitor. Next have a look at the full version of Excel. Picture using it on a 4-inch phone. even a 6 inch phone. Now listen to all the people say "That's because Continuum!" and ignore the part where there is one app with one interface built for everything Windows. This has been tried long before Microsoft "thought" of it. It was abandoned because it doesn't work.
  • I really don't see where that remark came from either. Microsoft is working on CShell which will resolve the fact that they have many different shells of the same Core running on many different devices. Also their UWP has been able effectively adapt to different screen sizes for over a year now. Facebook's app is a really good example of this as it shows in Mobile view on my 950, but when I connect my 950 to a monitor or TV, the layout changes to match that of a PC or Tablet.
  • Andromeda if done that way it sounds, looks to be the way to actually make all of the OS that Google offers true defragmentation. Apple has that one advantage of being a closed platform: they can give timely updates to ALL of their customers when needed. Something that Android especially needs. This could be the key to actually take advantage of Apple's small advantages and actually have an operating system that's truly seamless. I don't know about you, but this news is definitely exciting, and It's something to think about for sure.
  • Good article, on the side note, by any chances you guys would open up a new news channel that cover up all news related to Linux and Linux mobile? Since you guys started to covered up PlayStation and even Nintendo now, I would like to see more news related to Linux on your site too :)
  • Linux news would be awesome, I agree.
  • Find Crackberry Kevin. Tell him what you want. I'd love it :)
  • At the end of the day, think : QNX.
  • Nope. QNX is really good for some things. Other things take so much time and so many resources to make it work, that it can drive a company to the brink of extinction. And the company who bought it from that company. When it takes 3-5 times longer to make something like a phone OS using it, the advantages are gone because it's impossible to compete with something like Linux that's plug and play with components. It's a perfect MK for what BB is doing now — cars. It would also be PERFECT (caps intended) for something like a credit card terminal or ATM, and I hope BB is looking at doing it with their new push for a secure IoT. Off topic, I wish BB had worked on their own MK and middleware like what's mentioned in this post when they were at the top. Things would be really different (and really better) if Apple and Google couldn;t just do anything they like because there is no other choice.