When Google first announced Chrome OS, I wondered why the maker of Android was bothering to create yet another OS. But it seems that Google may finally be moving towards a more cohesive mobile OS strategy: It will reportedly combine Android and Chrome OS into a single mobile OS.
That’s according to a story in The Wall Street Journal, anyway. Citing multiple sources, the periodical claims that Google will “fold Chrome into Android,” which makes sense. After all, Chrome OS was never going to replace Android on smart phones, tablets, wearables, or elsewhere. But Android could absolutely replace Chrome OS.
According to the report, Google has been working on combining Chrome OS and Android for roughly two years.
Certainly, the two systems have followed different trajectories. Android is the world’s most popular computer operating system, and it accounts for about 85 percent of all smart phones sold today, plus about 65 percent of all tablets. Where PC makers are struggling to sell 300 million units a year, smart phone makers are selling that many devices each quarter.
Chrome OS, meanwhile, started off as a very limited system—it’s basically just a web browser with a few supporting services—and still requires an Internet connection to be truly usable despite years of progress on its offline capabilities. Worse, Chrome OS is an underachiever everywhere but the cash-strapped US education market, with just 3 percent worldwide market share.
What’s interesting about this is that Microsoft arrived at the same conclusion as Google did, albeit much earlier. Today, the software giant maintains only a single major OS platform, Windows 10, which works across (or soon will work across) an astonishing range of device types. Consolidation makes plenty of sense, for reasons both technical and political.
Apple, curiously, has branched off of OS X to create somewhat different platforms for phones and tablets (iOS), wearables (watchOS) and now TV (tvOS). Obviously, they all share the same backend, and support code sharing so that developers can easily port between the platforms.
Anyway, it’s not clear if Google is really combining Android and Chrome OS, but I hope they do so: I’ve always felt that Android could be easily adapted for use on PC devices, and the recently announced Google Pixel C is an interesting step in that direction, even though like Surface it’s kind of a hal