Google Chrome OS & Android: United They Stand, Divided They Die?

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2009-11-23 Print this article Print

After an event designed to pull back the curtain on the mysterious Chrome Operating System, Google co-founder Sergey Brin said the Linux-based operating system for netbooks and Google's Linux-based Android operating system for mobile devices could converge into one platform.

The OSes share similar traits, being based on open-source technologies such as Linux and WebKit. Both are designed to enable easy and speedy Web surfing and Web application use on mobile devices.

Currently, Chrome OS is being tailored for netbooks, those small laptops designed to run Web apps. Android's purview is broader, powering smartphones such as the Motorola Droid, as well as Internet tablets such as the Archos 5 Internet Tablet. Companies are also rumored to be building netbooks based on Android.

My first concern is that Chrome OS netbooks and Android netbooks would cancel each other out. Or would the Linux-driven, more-choice-is-better spirit buoy these open-source platforms against the Microsoft Windows hegemony?

It's unclear. You don't see consumers lining up in stores asking for Linux-based machines. Not non-geeky ones, anyway.

IDC analyst Al Hilwa told me: "Google would be wiser to somehow unify its Android and Chrome OS efforts under a single brand that receives long-term strategic marketing."

In fact, Google is missing an opportunity [by] not building on top of the current success of Android and its brand for its desktop OS, which arguably now has and likely will have more brand awareness as more and more carriers advertise devices supporting it in the hope of challenging the iPhone. I actually think in the long run, smart mobile devices [are] a bigger threat to Windows or at least as big as Cloud or web-computing in general.

I agree, but I also think there needs to be some clear rationalization between Android and Chrome OS. People are still trying to wrap their heads around Chrome OS as an emerging platform that eschews traditional load processes.

We don't need the confusion of worrying where Android and Chrome OS begin and end, or if they are just complementary platforms laboring side by side versus Windows.

Hilwa, who earlier told me Chrome OS could take five years to find purchase in the consumer world and another five to see serious pickup among enterprises, said:

The Macintosh was introduced in 1984 and it is still not broadly adopted in the enterprise (of course some 10 or 15 years after its start, Apple decided that it will abandon a "broad enterprise strategy" and today the Mac is considered a success anyway despite that.) So, if indeed Chrome OS gets broad enterprise adoption in 10 years it would be deemed a categorical success and would likely have met Google's expectations. Additionally, it may be considerably more successful with consumers much earlier and thus still be a success.

That's assuming, of course, Android and Chrome OS don't put each other in stasis.

With Android doing so well in the smartphone market (see Droid sales), perhaps it's better for Chrome OS to be tucked under the Android brand, lest it get rolled by Windows, which is devouring netbook sales. |

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