Chrome OS vs. Android: Which Is Here to Stay?


According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, Google will merge its two operating systems (OS), Android and Chrome OS, the preferred one being Android.

This report was followed by contradictory information from Vice President Hiroshi Lockheimer. He stated in the official blog that the Chrome OS would still exist. However, he also stated that the team was reworking the Chrome OS and figuring out how to bring Android apps into the Chrome OS.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Google will fold its Chrome OS into the Android mobile OS by 2017. Google plans to harmonize their ecosystem, which already includes several types of Android-based devices like smartphones, tablets, infotainment systems, smart watches, and smart TVs. This will make it possible for Android developers to quickly extend their apps to all platforms. In return, Google will be able to reach more customers with the Google Play app market and keep pace with the new multi-platform Windows 10 and Apple’s App Store.

However, the opposite is quite possible too, and the Chrome OS would still be a separate project. Laptops are a diistinct class of devices with a user experience (UX) which greatly differs from that of smart devices as they do not have physical keyboards. This is why Google developed Apps Runtime on Chrome (ARC) so that Android apps will be able to function on Chromebooks. In this case, the Chrome OS will still be available for the best Android practices, while the role of AVS might be to coordinate communication between the teams in order to implement worthwhile features in all of Google’s products as soon as possible.

It seems like Google has both plan A and plan B, but prefers to play it safe rather than reveal too much information. This is no surprise. Both plans provide the same or similar UX but not the same benefits, as the Chrome OS is considered to be more secure. Moreover, conversion to Android means that developers will have to rewrite it so that it can start supporting laptops. This process will be inevitably accompanied by minor and major bugs on different devices, hot fixes, and so on, which are unlikely to help Google win over new customers.

Abandoning the Chrome OS might raise concerns among both the Chrome OS and Android communities and decrease users’ trust in all new Google devices. We observed something similar when Microsoft abandoned Windows Phone 7 in favor of Windows Phone 8. However, in that case, new apps did not function on the old OS and gave rise to the situation when only the new platform had both new apps and updates.

However, in this case we are optimistic. The Google team has learned this lesson very well. Hiroshi Lockheimer guarantees system auto-updates for at least the next five years, so Chrome OS users are safe. Moreover, now they are able to use their favorite Android apps on their laptops.

Again, the introduction of ARC is good news for Android developers, as it makes it possible to port native and cross-platform apps to Chromebooks and thus save time and money while offering a better UX. In other words, they gain from Google’s strategy anyway.

Therefore, the best way is for Google to support both strategies (even if the second seems to be less productive and/or unoptimized) and see how well the competitors will be doing.

Sources: Google Chrome Blog, Wall Street Journal