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October 29, 2015

Google to Merge Android With Chrome OS

Update: Hiroshi Lockheimer, Google's SVP for Android, Chrome OS and Chromecast says that Chrome OS is here to stay: "While we've been working on ways to bring together the best of both operating systems, there's no plan to phase out Chrome OS."

Original post:

Wall Street Journal reports that Google works on integrating Chrome OS into Android and will release a unified OS that runs on phones, tablets, laptops and more. "The company plans to unveil its new, single operating system in 2017, but expects to show off an early version next year."

So why kill Chrome OS and switch to Android? Chrome OS has a small desktop market share, while Android is the dominant mobile OS. There are a lot more apps in the Google Play Store than in the Chrome Web Store and Google had a hard time convincing developers to build Chrome apps. Google even ported the Android runtime to Chrome, so that you can run Android apps in Chrome OS.

Google's CEO, Sundar Pichai, has recently said that "mobile as a computing paradigm is eventually going to blend with what we think of as desktop today". Most likely, Google wants to bring Android to the desktop and provide a coherent experience. This solves some of the issues with Chrome OS (the lack of apps, low market share), but brings more challenges (Android is less secure than Chrome OS, it's updated less often, has a more complicated interface, it doesn't have a windowing system, apps aren't optimized for desktop).

I like Chromebooks because they're simple devices that require no maintenance. There are few things you can change, few things that can go wrong. It's easy to share them with other people, you don't have to worry about backups or saving your data.

Pixel C's announcement makes more sense now. It's an Android tablet developed by the Chromebook Pixel team. “We think the Pixel C’s tablet and keyboard experience really unlocks new ways to both play and be productive on one device,” mentioned Google.

Google has a lot of work to do. Android's tablet interface is pretty poor, there's no native multi-window support, Chrome for Android doesn't support extensions, apps and themes.

Chromebooks were all about the web, but native apps turned out to be more important for users. Better performance, better integration with the operating system, better interface - native apps trumped web apps and Chrome OS couldn't find a way to turn the tide.

{ Thanks, David. }


  1. I still think the web will ultimately beat native, or perhaps a bit more accurately, it will become native (web apps will have all the capabilities of native apps, and be basically indistinguishable from native in many ways). In the mean time though, having both native and web apps available on the same device just makes sense IMO. Android already has great native apps, and Chrome already has great web apps, it just kinda makes sense to put the two together.

  2. The following post puts the WSJ post in question:

  3. @Andrew. I don't think there is enough infrastructure to support what you ate talking about yet. Sure it exists in some areas, but for the most part, Web Apps aren't a viable replacement for native apps because of Internet availability and bandwidth, or just cost. That's regardless of the performance differences.

  4. I hope they will begin to switch their APIs from Java to C.

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  6. From Google:
    Several stories in the press are speculating that we’re “folding the Chrome operating system into Android”. This is not true: Chrome OS is not going away. In fact, we are continuing to invest heavily in Chrome OS. We’ve seen amazing momentum with Chromebooks, for example, which are the number one educational device for schools in the US and have topped Amazon’s bestselling laptops list for the past two holiday seasons. The Google team is currently working to correct these inaccurate stories.
    We want to give users a great experience across mobile and desktop, and will always look for ways to improve things. The Android and Chrome OS teams have been part of the same organization for over a year, and continue to collaborate on features that build on the best of both platforms (like smart unlock, which allows people to unlock a Chromebook with their Android device, or App Runtime for Chrome, which enables Android apps to run on Chrome OS).