Google: Sundar Pichai’s Very Good Call

31 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Android only needs to steal one feature from Chrome OS.

Android, Google’s operating system for mobile phones and tablets, and Chrome OS, its operating system for laptop computers, will soon be merged into one piece of software, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Two people familiar with the matter told the Journal that Google engineers have been working on combining the operating systems since 2013, and that the company might show off an early version of the new OS next year. We can speculate for days about what exactly this would look like, but the reality is Google will continue bringing Chrome OS features to Android, and vice versa.

By contrast, Chrome OS accounted for about five percent of laptop sales in 2014, and while top-shelf Chrome OS computers such as the Chromebook Pixel exist, most of those sales were sub-$300 models. Android needs to be modified so that it can run smoothly on laptop and desktop computers, which means supporting keyboard and mouse input, allowing for much larger displays, and letting the system take advantage of high-end graphics cards. Despite assurances (likely aimed to calm the fears among current and potential partners), doing away with Chrome OS in favor of Android isn’t such a bad idea because of how successful Android has become. That’s the route Microsoft started down with Windows 8 and continued in Windows 10, which employs “universal apps” that run on tiny phone screens and brawny desktop PCs alike.

Furthermore, Android would benefit from Chrome OS’s security features, which would shore up an area in which the mobile platform has long struggled. Carriers delay the process for technical reasons, but mainly because they want you to buy a new device, not get more features and improvements on your existing one. There are countless examples of this, but the most recent statistic summarizes the problem well: It took Android Lollipop 10 months to hit 20 percent adoption.

Google’s quick response to the Journal report can be taken one of two ways: Google truly is committed to Chrome OS far beyond 2017, and perhaps is only investigating the logistics of a hybrid OS. Google has somewhat addressed the problem by shoving many features, especially the ones developers need to make better apps, into Google Play Services.

Because this is an app, the APK is distributed via the Google Play store, meaning updates are sent down to Android users without anyone but the user being able to stop them. That’s the real reason Google is exploring putting Android on devices that Chrome OS traditionally ships on (laptops, and a few desktops): Android is a more successful ecosystem, many times over.

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