Google's in-development operating system, Fuchsia, has a new development device: The Google Pixelbook. Google's $1,000 laptop usually runs Chrome OS, but with the latest Fuchsia builds, you can swap out the browser-based OS for Google's experimental operating system.
Fuchsia—which only started development in 2016—is Google's third operating system after Chrome OS and Android. The development documents describe the OS as targeting "modern phones and modern personal computers," which would seemingly put it in competition with both of Google's existing OSes. Everything is up in the air given the early state of the project, but it seems like a from-scratch rewrite of a modern operating system. The OS doesn't use the Linux kernel—Fuchsia uses a Google-developed microkernel formerly called "Magenta" and currently called "Zircon."
The "Escher" renderer is written in the Vulkan graphics API, and seems custom-built to run Google's shadow-heavy Material Design interface guidelines. Apps are written in Google's "Flutter" SDK, which produces cross-platform code that also runs on Android and iOS. The OS is open source, but with no Linux kernel, there's no GPL components—the OS is licensed under a mix of BSD 3 clause, MIT, and Apache 2.0.
Fuchsia is still incredibly difficult to get running. Along with the Pixelbook, Fuchsia only supports two other obscure pieces of hardware: an Acer Switch Alpha 12 laptop and old Intel NUCs from 2015. Fuchsia can run on the open source emulator QEMU, but Fuchsia's graphics stack requires Vulkan support. QEMU doesn't have Vulkan support, so the emulator can't actually display Fuchsia's interface—you only get a command line. The last time we looked at Fuchsia, the system UI was able to be packaged up as an APK and run on top of an Android phone. We were able to poke around the extremely early system UI, which was nothing more than some placeholder art and some interesting window management. Google stopped developing this branch of the system UI, though, so there's no way to get it running on an Android phone anymore. In fact, Fuchsia's install process doesn't support any ARM-based targets, so it does not currently run on a smartphone.
The Pixelbook installation process for Fuchsia is definitely unique. Google recommends installing the OS with a USB drive, but the media creation process is "destructive" to this USB device. That's right—you actually have to sacrifice a USB device to the Fuchsia gods to get the OS running.
The extreme difficulty in getting Fuchsia to run reinforces the fact that Fuchsia is currently a secret, deep-in-development operating system that Google isn't really ready to talk about or encourage people to try just yet. It took Google five years of development time to turn Android into a real product. If Fuchsia survives the development process and follows a similar path, you can expect it to become a product sometime around 2020.