Google to merge Chrome with Android by 2017

by Matt Klassen on November 2, 2015

As part of Google’s efforts to dominate the different ways that people access the Internet, the company has been developing and deploying separate operating systems: Android for mobile devices and Chrome for personal computers. In fact, early on Google was unsure which platform would win out, Android, an app-centric platform that relies on native software written specifically for the OS, or Chrome, a browser and web-centric platform that offered users a gateway to all online software through its OS.

So for the better part of six years now Google has been developing and managing two distinct operating systems, but as the lines between mobile devices and regular computing machines continue to blur, so do the lines between Google’s two operating systems, leading many to wonder just how long Google can continue managing these two different worlds.

With that said, it looks like the days of Android and Chrome operating as separate entities is about to come to an end, as the Wall Street Journal reported late last week that Google plans to fold its Chrome OS platform into its Android mobile operating system, the tech giant clearly recognizing which horse to hitch its wagon to going forward.

While there’s no question that Chrome attempts to serve a different niche in the computer market, its fate was sealed long ago, as Chrome predominantly powers Google’s own branded laptops, Chromebooks, which account for a  paltry 3% of all PCs according to research firm IDC. Of course compare that to Android, which powers more than a billion mobile devices worldwide, and it’s no wonder Google engineers have been attempting to tackle the problem of dual operating systems for several years now.

To that end, while the company has reportedly been attempting to create a viable merger operating system since 2013, only recently did Google make significant advances in this area, two of the WSJ sources said. According to the report, “The company plans to unveil its new, single operating system in 2017, but expects to show off an early version next year, one of the people said.”

Now there’s no question that this new single operating system will still be predominantly the Android we know and love, but that still begs several questions: First, the absolutely best thing about Chrome—and conversely the worst thing about Android—is the update schedule, which happens a lot faster with the PC OS. For Android you have to wait until the next iteration is released, while Chrome updates happen on the fly, a much better system to rapidly address security vulnerabilities and other user interface issues.

Second, will Android be able to make the jump from mobile to personal computing? Sure there doesn’t seem to be much difference anymore, but consider the differences between the platforms. As I said, Android is an app-centric system, relying on native software, whereas Chrome is app agnostic (for lack of a better term), operating as a web-centric platform that allows users to access all software and apps through the browser itself.

While it’s clear that Android works for mobile, it’s doubtful anyone will want to go back to the days of the sharp PC/Mac software demarcation, where you had to make sure you were using something compatible with your current OS.

All that to say, by 2017 the Google ecosystem will look quite different, and not that we’ll miss Chrome OS (heck, hardly anyone uses it anyways), but I’m guessing we will miss the way PC platforms operate in contrast to mobile platforms, unless of course Google finds a way of marrying the best of both worlds.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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