Google to fold Chrome OS, Android together into new OS strategy for 2017

Posted:
in General Discussion edited November 2015
After two years of exploration work, Google is said to be "folding" its web-based Chrome OS into its mobile Android platform, creating a single operating system strategy that it expects to unveil in 2017.




This summer's Google IO may have been dull largely because the company was suffering from a crisis in design.

According to a report by Alistair Barr for the Wall Street Journal, Google's planned OS convergence is being driven by the broad adoption of Android on phones compared to the "niche player" role Chrome OS has achieved with Chromebooks.

The new OS "will also run PCs," the report stated, "giving users access to Google's Play store which offers more than one million apps."

Barr wrote that "Google wants to get its software and moneymaking services such as Search and YouTube on as many devices as possible. It also hopes to curry favor with independent developers, whose apps will work on more devices with fewer modifications."

A variety of PC devices already allow users to boot into Android to take advantage of all those smartphone apps, but have not been particularly successful. Asus introduced its Transformer Book Duet nearly two years ago, before canceling it.

There are also at least three significant Android ports to PCs: Console OS, android-x86.org and Android IA, in addition to a variety of Android emulators. None have had much impact on the PC market.

Android tablets have also taken little real advantage of their shared app platform with Android phones, failing to create a real market for tablet-optimized apps and making little progress in gaining attention among enterprise users, many of whom are now standardizing on iOS.

A variety of other devices, including TV gaming console like Zeebo, GameStick, Ouya, MOJO, Amazon Fire TV, GamePOP, Google's own Nexus Player and other Android TV devices, have also tried to tap into Android's smartphone apps to expand its ecosystem beyond phones, without success.

An abandonment of Chrome OS as a brand

Last year, Google unveiled "Material Design," a design language that more closely associated Android with the simple, web-like interface of Chrome OS and the company's web apps. However, a common design language hasn't been enough to get developers interested in building apps for Chrome OS.

The Wall Street Journal cited Airbnb app developer Alex Davis as saying, "Right now we don't have strong interest in developing for Chrome OS. The market size is relatively small," adding that 'switching to Android' is "probably the right move."A common design language hasn't been enough to get developers interested in building apps for Chrome OS

Barr stated that "folding Chrome into Android also might help Google win more workplace customers for its productivity apps, such as Docs and Sheets," although those services are already web apps.

A dubious campaign to promote Chrome OS as being successful in the education market last winter also did nothing to actually gain any traction for the platform in the markets where Google actually expected it to be popular, principally in the enterprise.




Android and Chrome OS both run on a Linux kernel, but Android apps use a Virtual Machine architecture taken from Java, where Chrome OS is essentially a Chrome browser running on Linux, and its apps are essentially web pages on steroids.

Google first announced Chrome OS in the summer of 2010 with the intent of powering a new crop of ARM and Intel-based netbooks. Those initial plans were broadsided by the popularity of Apple's iPad, which not only devastated the existing netbook market but went on to blunt all growth in Windows PCs.

Merging the two would either require doubling down on Android's Java VM model, an architecture that remains at risk of disruptive legal action related to Oracle's software infringement lawsuit, or moving Android to a web based model more like Chrome OS (or Palm's webOS), or some entirely new successor devised and built over the next two years.

The report stated that Google planned to keep the Chrome brand for its browser forked from WebKit, and implied Google's new strategy would be called Android without detailing the technical approach Google is expected to take to arrive at a single platform.

"Between two evils, I generally like to pick the one I never tried before"

The failure of Chrome OS has been great enough to thwart Google's original plans to essentially move its Android user base to Chrome's web apps. Over the past two years, Google has worked to port or host Chrome apps to Android, efforts that nobody has taken seriously given the lack of interest in Chrome.

Conversely, as a brand Android is broadly used but also dogged by an atrocious security record and continuing legal issues.


Stagefright


Google has also earned relatively little from its Android platform, and has repeatedly failed to sell its own Android hardware despite repeated attempts at launching phones, tablets, TV boxes and other devices under the Google, Nexus, Motorola and Android brands.

The company is effectively shut out of China, one of the world's two largest markets, even as its free Android OS has been used within China as the staging platform for direct competitors to Google's software and services.

Google has also struggled to update or maintain existing Android users while releasing new versions of the software that most existing Android buyers can't adopt.

As of October, only 23.5 percent of its active Google Play users are running last year's Android 5 Lollipop, and there aren't enough Android 6 users for the company to even report. In contrast, Apple just released iOS 9 six weeks ago, and is already reporting 61 percent adoption.

That indicates that Google is essentially being wagged by long tail of mobile devices; it is being forced to concede that its preferred strategy of Chrome OS is simply impossible to successfully pursue, requiring it to instead double down on its flawed, legally questionable Andy Rubin platform that can at least claim the inertia of significant users.




At the same time, it seems likely that Google's efforts to "fold Chrome" into Android will largely involve reworking Android as a new brand for Chrome's web-centric approach. Porting today's Android to PCs has already been done; Google even partnered with Intel to officially get Android working on x86 chips in a failed bid by both to create Intel-based smartphones. It shouldn't take another two years to simply relaunch Android for PCs.

However, the two year distraction of a more significant retooling of an operating system inheriting the "Android" brand would leave Apple even less contested, right as the company is hitting its stride in China and across the Europe and the United States with its own iOS and Mac platforms, neither of which is suffering from platform confusion or the trend toward mobile devices.

Floating a plan to deliver a new OS in the future could also freeze interest in buying today's Android devices, given that Google and its partners have very rarely bothered to make new OS releases work on existing devices, even among many higher end models that were less than two years old.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 86
    Chrome OS was a web browser.

    They are likely trying to build a tvOS and a Car OS. They have a long way to go.
    Supporting all the different device drivers for PCs may be a challenge unless they just support the Linux drivers or be web based.

    Does the world need a new PC Operating System? Reminds me of BeOS and Haiku OS. https://www.haiku-os.org

    This could also be a push by Intel to revive the PC industry on x86.
    Get Google Android to switch to Intel for laptops and tablets and phones.

    Apple could buy AMD and take control of its CPU / GPU for desktops but ADM has debts and would likely lose its x86 license if purchased.
    Perhaps Apple can use ARM on the desktops, laptops and even servers in the future.
  • Reply 2 of 86
    They shouldn't have been separate in the first place.

    And we don't need a "Web-centric" OS. That already failed.

    It's as if Google can't learn.
  • Reply 3 of 86

    Misery loves company.

  • Reply 4 of 86
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,031member
    oscarg wrote: »
    They shouldn't have been separate in the first place.

    And we don't need a "Web-centric" OS. That already failed.

    It's as if Google can't learn.
    Educators seem to like it.
  • Reply 6 of 86

    They are so confused.

  • Reply 7 of 86
    jason98jason98 Posts: 755member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post





    As of October, only 23.5 percent of its active Google Play users are running last year's Android 5 Lollipop, and there aren't enough Android 6 users for the company to even report. In contrast, Apple just released iOS 9 six weeks ago, and is already reporting 61 percent adoption.

     

     

    Not defending Google in anyways, but to be fair 23.5% of Google Play users is roughly similar to 100% of App Store users if you convert it to headcount.

  • Reply 8 of 86
    "After two years of exploration work, Google is said to be "folding" its web-based Chrome OS into its mobile Android platform, creating a single operating system strategy that it expects to unveil in 2017."

    Assuming Google doesn't run into delays, 2017 is like two generations away from iOS today. Think back to what iOS was like in 2013... Now try and add that difference to iOS9, while the FrankenChrome/Android monster, which is not competitive to today's iOS9, will then be more than two generations out of date...

    Then take a look at what Apple's been doing with hardware... The S-series of CPU/GPU's, the M-series chip, 3D touch, camera advances. All these advances have not been answered by Android devices. Meanwhile no one, including Samsung, don't have the manufacturing scale to compete in hardware, much less in software.

    Apple is relentless in moving the stakes ahead, no one, including Google, has a two-year window to retool an OS and return to the market. Look at MS who needed 6 years to return to the phone market with a mobile OS that may be worthy of competing with Apple's iOS... and here it is with barely any apps and a nearly non-existent ecosystem.

    [COLOR=blue]Meanwhile Google's search patent will run out ... the cash cow will be dry...

    Google's stock will arguer into the ground so hard the downdraft may suck other tech stock down with it.[/COLOR]
  • Reply 9 of 86
    satchmosatchmo Posts: 2,699member
    So after this convergence, Apple will be the only one of the big 3 (Google, Apple and MS), with a separate OS for desktop and mobile.
    Not sure if this is a good or bad thing.
  • Reply 10 of 86
    jason98 wrote: »
    As of October, only 23.5 percent of its active Google Play users are running last year's Android 5 Lollipop, and there aren't enough Android 6 users for the company to even report. In contrast, Apple just released iOS 9 six weeks ago, and is already reporting 61 percent adoption.

     

    Not defending Google in anyways, but to be fair 23.5% of Google Play users is roughly similar to 100% of App Store users if you convert it to headcount.

    That's a good point, but also -- everyone of those users are open to STAGEfright crawling up their ass with a blowtorch....
  • Reply 11 of 86
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,031member
    jason98 wrote: »
    Not defending Google in anyways, but to be fair 23.5% of Google Play users is roughly similar to 100% of App Store users if you convert it to headcount.
    If fast timely security updates are important (and they should be) you have two choices: An iPhone or a Nexus. Otherwise you're at some third party manufacturers mercy.

    To read a less flamboyant (flaming) article about the possible merging that still doesn't gloss over problems with Chrome and Android:
    http://www.androidcentral.com/examining-possibilities-android-only-strategy-across-phones-tablets-laptops-and-desktops
  • Reply 12 of 86
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,031member

    Meanwhile Google's search patent will run out ... the cash cow will be dry...

    Google's stock will arguer into the ground so hard the downdraft may suck other tech stock down with it.
    Keep riding that toy horse...
    Google search patents aren't "running out". :lol:
  • Reply 13 of 86
    satchmo wrote: »
    So after this convergence, Apple will be the only one of the big 3 (Google, Apple and MS), with a separate OS for desktop and mobile.
    Not sure if this is a good or bad thing.

    Put it this way, Apple can boast of an OS optimized especially for mobile. The advantages of that optimization will only increase over time, while everything else is a compromise that will drag at the platforms.
  • Reply 14 of 86
    gatorguy wrote: »

    Meanwhile Google's search patent will run out ... the cash cow will be dry...

    Google's stock will arguer into the ground so hard the downdraft may suck other tech stock down with it.
    Keep riding that toy horse...
    Google search patents aren't "running out". :lol:

    Read 'em and weep:

    If you look at Google's 10-K 2009 filing on Page 15, you will see a statement about when Google's original PageRank patent expires. It reads:

    The first version of the PageRank technology was created while Larry and Sergey attended Stanford University, which owns a patent to PageRank. The PageRank patent expires in 2017. We hold a perpetual license to this patent. In October 2003, we extended our exclusivity period to this patent through 2011, at which point our license will become non-exclusive.

    Some time in 2011 Google's PageRank patent became non-exclusive. And then in 2017 the patent will expire completely.

    As many of you know, the PageRank algorithm Google uses today is completely different from what it was back when it was first designed. But the fundamentals are the same.

    Is Google concerned about this? Page 15 goes on to read:

    Circumstances outside our control could pose a threat to our intellectual property rights. For example, effective intellectual property protection may not be available in every country in which our products and services are distributed. Also, the efforts we have taken to protect our proprietary rights may not be sufficient or effective. Any significant impairment of our intellectual property rights could harm our business or our ability to compete. Also, protecting our intellectual property rights is costly and time consuming. Any increase in the unauthorized use of our intellectual property could make it more expensive to do business and harm our operating results.

    Times, dey be a-changin' and Google hasn't found a viable second source of income, nor a buyer for those barges rotting at the dock.
  • Reply 15 of 86
    I think Apple's path is correct but If I know Apple they have another "star trek" like secret project already in the works merging iOS and OSX to be ready incase that is where the future begs them to go...
  • Reply 16 of 86
    crowleycrowley Posts: 5,522member

    Not marked as an Editorial, despite the snark being more prominent than the actual reporting?  Come on Dan, it's possible to relate news without injecting the same old bashing of anything that isn't Apple.

  • Reply 17 of 86
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,031member
    Read 'em and weep:

    If you look at Google's 10-K 2009 filing on Page 15, you will see a statement about when Google's original PageRank patent expires. It reads:

    The first version of the PageRank technology was created while Larry and Sergey attended Stanford University, which owns a patent to PageRank. The PageRank patent expires in 2017. We hold a perpetual license to this patent. In October 2003, we extended our exclusivity period to this patent through 2011, at which point our license will become non-exclusive.

    Some time in 2011 Google's PageRank patent became non-exclusive. And then in 2017 the patent will expire completely.

    As many of you know, the PageRank algorithm Google uses today is completely different from what it was back when it was first designed. But the fundamentals are the same.
    Is Google concerned about this? Page 15 goes on to read:

    Circumstances outside our control could pose a threat to our intellectual property rights. For example, effective intellectual property protection may not be available in every country in which our products and services are distributed. Also, the efforts we have taken to protect our proprietary rights may not be sufficient or effective. Any significant impairment of our intellectual property rights could harm our business or our ability to compete. Also, protecting our intellectual property rights is costly and time consuming. Any increase in the unauthorized use of our intellectual property could make it more expensive to do business and harm our operating results.

    Times, dey be a-changin' and Google hasn't found a viable second source of income, nor a buyer for those barges rotting at the dock.
    I don't think you're catching what they're pitching. Google didn't say there was any danger to their business from an expiring Pagerank patent.

    If you ever read one of my previous explanations when you've brought this up before you should have had a clearer understanding of it all than you seemingly do. Remember the mention of Pagerank 2? Pagerank 3? How about nicely linked industry articles explaining Google no longer relying on Pagerank at all? No? Then no need to go over it yet again for you as you presumably have no interest.

    So hang your hat on the destruction of Google end next year beginning of 2017 when Pagerank runs out. You'll be proven right within 16 months sir. Or not.
  • Reply 18 of 86
    gatorguy wrote: »
    I don't think you're catching what they're pitching. Google didn't say there was any danger to their business from an expiring Pagerank patent. If you ever read one of my previous explanations when you've brought this up before you should have had a clearer understanding of it all then you seem to. Remember the mention of Pagerank 2, and Pagerank 3? How about nicely linked industry articles explaining Google no longer relying on Pagerank at all? No? Then no need to go over it yet again for you as you presumably have no interest.

    So hang your hat on the destruction of Google end next year when Pagerank runs out. You'll be proven right within 14 months sir. Or not.


    Sorry, I don't get to read all the threads to their conclusions, so I've missed some things. So, let's just say we're equally right, but you are more equal.
  • Reply 20 of 86
    jason98 wrote: »
    Not defending Google in anyways, but to be fair 23.5% of Google Play users is roughly similar to 100% of App Store users if you convert it to headcount.

    No. Most Android phones are low end junk running older versions. Only flagship devices would be on a version as new as Lollipop. And the iPhone decimates Android when we look at a "headcount" of high end devices only.

    Plus the idea Android has 80% market share while iOS has 15% is a myth, making that 23.5% much smaller than it actually is.
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