The news broke yesterday that Google is going to move towards merging ChromeOS and Android, starting sometime in 2016. As a Chromebook owner I knew this day would probably eventually come, but it’s still bittersweet news to hear it finally.
ChromeOS was a gamble for Google to begin with. The idea was to build an operating system for small, inexpensive devices, that revolved around the browser (in this case Chrome). For the most part, it worked, and was a quick and easy way to develop cheap portable devices that could operate much like a traditional laptop. Yet, there were obvious deficiencies. Many developers weren’t able to create the type of apps that had the same user experience as on other desktops. The Chromebook marketplace was also quite small, and so investment into a development platform that had a limited audience, with limited functionality, isn’t appealing. In the end, most ChomeOS apps were simply links to websites that you could get on any other platform where Chrome ran.
Google has said that ChromeOS isn’t “going away” but much of their focus seems to be on getting these two systems to converge. This is similar to what Microsoft has already done with Windows 10, and it’s ubiquity across various devices. Apple hasn’t quite gone this way yet, but it certainly is leaning towards more cross-pollination in its operating systems. Google is simply following the trend.
The downside for ChromeOS is that the beauty of its simplicity probably won’t survive the melding of the minds. What has been a fun stripped down way to get things done online, will one day be inundated with thousands of apps, and tons of customization, similar to how we build Android phones. ChromeOS folks have been asking for more apps for the platform, and I suppose you need to be careful what you wish for.