Over the course of the last several months there have been whispers, some subtle, some not so much, regarding a merger of Android and Chrome, both of the powerhouse Google franchise. Sundar Pichai, the Senior Vice President at Chrome, has admitted as much, telling CNET “that his product and that other Google operating system, Android, may some day merge.” Yet, there are many things that would need to happen before a merger could successfully occur.
But, it does look to slowly be occurring with the addition of the Chrome browser as a member of the WebKit browser engine product last summer, and the announcement that Chrome for Android will be released in beta form in a matter of weeks. That the Android browser finally shares enough code with the Chrome browser diminishes some of the compatibility issues between the two, making the transition more seamless. Regardless, there are still some problems that must be overcome, outside of the failure of Google’s first attempt at the Chrome OS.
Issues with Chrome OS
Chrome, relatively speaking, is much younger than Android, which Google purchased while Chrome was built in-house. During the introduction of the new Samsung Chromebook and Chromebox, Google’s vice president of engineering, Linus Upson, said that Google is not working on a Chrome OS tablet.
“We have our hands full in delivering a wonderful experience on desktop and laptop and the Android team have their hands full bringing a great experience on phone and tablet, but the two teams are working together even more closely” said Upson, hinting at a convergences between Chrome and Android operating systems. Yet, melding together the tablet and the phone is not an easy prospect. One problem, other than the newness of Chrome OS, that Google must address is the mobile/PC integration which both Apple and Microsoft had to develop two separate operating systems for.
Yet, the payoff for Google, to integrate Chrome into Android, should payoff in spades. The Chrome browser is either the number one or two most used browser in the world, with the race between Internet Explorer and Chrome growing tighter everyday. This deeper market integration will, eventually, make it easier for Google to bring its Chrome OS into the mainstream.
The push for mainstream Chrome OS
A lot of this discussion has occurred in the last week since the announcement of the Samsung Chromebox and Chrombook. The Chromebook, a laptop, comes with significant drawbacks — the biggest being its need to always be online, along with what the editors at CNET call the “general limitations of the Chrome OS,” which make it difficult to recommend. A potential customer could get a higher quality, more useful laptop for a similar, if not cheaper, price than the $449 Series 5 550 Chromebook that will be offered.
The Chromebox, which comes in at a reasonable $329, is a desktop unit that bears a close resemblance to Apple’s Mac Mini. For users who spend a good deal of time working on Google’s Cloud, these devices are a sound investment. Regardless, according to Stephen Shankland of CNET, the Chromebox and Chromebook are still slower than traditional PCs.
Shankland also notes that users should not write off the Chromebook or Chromebox just yet, saying, “the Web is becoming more powerful as a foundation for apps, those apps are taking advantage of the new power, and Chrome OS draws on that broad and deep movement,” and that while Google has been known to “unceremoniously dump some dud projects, Chrome OS looks to me like one of the ones in which Google is investing for the long haul.”
In a recent LA Times article it is written that Google is promoting the computers by claiming that “its line of Web-base computers will not have a ‘messy desktop’ or ‘rolling hills of green.’” The Chromebook and Chromebox are already available on Amazon, and in the coming weeks will be available at Best Buy stores across the nation. According to Amazon’s website, the Chromebox is currently ranked second in computers and accessories, desktop and the Chromebook is ranked 19th in computer and accessories, laptops, potentially hinting to strong sales figures and a future for the Chrome OS.