A report was recently released in which it was suggested that Google would fold their Chrome operating system for desktop computers and laptops into the Android mobile operating system. This suggestion was initially revealed by the Wall Street Journal.
According to the Journal’s sources, Chrome OS would cease to exist after being folded into Android sometime in 2017. Combining the two operating systems has been in the works for nearly two years, the report said.
Not long after this report was released, a further report stated that Google will also release the Android operating system for computers and laptops. All smartphones and tablets that are Google-based run on Android. The exception is the Chromebook, which runs on Chrome OS. Chrome OS is essentially a smaller version of Linux. It relies on web apps and a very small number of select Android apps. The reports indicated that the end of Chrome OS is in sight, but this suggestion may not be true. This is because, Hiroshi Lockheimer, who is Google’s head of Chromecast, Chrome OS and Android, tweeted that Google is fully committed to Chrome.
There’s a ton of momentum for Chromebooks and we are very committed to Chrome OS. I just bought two for my kids for schoolwork.
On the other hand, stating that the commitment is there is not an outright denial of the report released by the Wall Street Journal. It is known that Google has made attempts to better integrate the two operating systems. Their aim was to create Chrome desktop features available in the Chrome browser available on Android. They also wanted to add other features like Google Now, as well as support options for a select and small number of Android apps that could run on Chrome OS.
Already, the streaming media adapters for Chrome, Chromecast, already run in an Android version. This means that the lines between Chrome and Android are already very much blurred. Both Android and Chrome are Linux-based. As such, it would make a lot of sense if the two systems actually had the same codebase. As such, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if Google were to use an Android base with a Chrome OS experience on top of it.
There has been speculation that Google would merge the two for many years. The biggest buzz in speculation came when the Pixel C was launched, the Android tablet that focuses heavily on being as productive as a laptop. It comes with a keyboard accessory, turning it into an equivalent of a laptop. Some believe that this is a clear clue that Chrome OS is going to get phased out.
However, there is a big reason as to why Google may actually not merge the two systems at all. That reason is Chrome’s popularity in schools.
Futuresource Consulting reports that Chromebooks made up 49 percent of all devices shipped to K-12 schools in the United States last year, handily beating out Apple’s iPad. According to a Gartner analysis, educators accounted for as many as 72 percent of all Chromebook sales in 2014.
The reasons why they are so popular in schools are vast. First of all, they are affordable, while very capable. Additionally, they seem to be completely immune to malware. Lastly, management and setup are very simple, which makes them very suitable for those types of environments.
So why would Google want to merge? The first main reason is scale, which is something Google absolutely loves. Google wants all its products to reach billions of people, and Chrome simply isn’t doing that. It is believed just 7.9 million Chromebooks will be shipped this year. Android, meanwhile, will reach 1.4 billion. This means that, in Google’s eyes, Chrome just isn’t big enough.
Secondly, there is simplicity. Google has had some difficulties in juggling the two operating systems simultaneously, although it is doing so on television. It is very expensive to properly maintain two systems and device makers can find it very confusing. Pichai, one of the senior VPs at Google, has often talked about streamlining.
Sundar Pichai, the senior vice president in charge of projects like Android and Maps, spoke about the need for refinement and streamlining. This is a trend that makes sense for anyone who has followed tech for more than a few years.
People who are knowledgeable about Pichai’s working methods in the past know that he wants to simplify what is out there. He has done so throughout his working career and has always tried to create uniformed faces. He calls it ‘One Google’.
However, it must be said that Chrome beats Android hands down on security issues. This is because Android has to rely on hundreds of different device makers and carriers who all have to be committed to pushing the updates. Chrome is far better in terms of security. It is for this reason that enterprises continue to prefer it and this may be why Google wants to keep it.
Finally, it is all about being mobile. Android was born for mobile phones and mobile internet usage continues to rise. This can be worrying for Google, which continues to earn huge revenue streams from desktop advertising. Google continues to state that they have a complete and cohesive plan in place for mobile in order to ensure they continue to have the revenue. Android is built for mobile, Chrome is not. And Pichai publicly stated that it must focus on the link between devices and operating systems.
Machine learning is a core transformative way by which we are rethinking everything we are doing. We’ve been investing in this area for a while. We believe we are state-of-the-art here. And the progress particularly in the last two years has been pretty dramatic.
So where do we stand? Two Wall Street Journal reports have been released suggesting that Chrome is on its way out. But we also have a statement from Google that they continue to be committed to the operating system. So, in all likelihood, the two will continue to co-exist, perhaps with some better integration systems.