Google’s Chrome OS and Android Could Be Merging

If you have yet to hear: Andy Rubin is no longer going to be the man in charge of the Android division, stepping down to take on another project within Google. Ever since Andy Rubin was part of Android, Inc (before Google bought it), he has been involved with Android, so this is a pretty big change for Google.

What does it mean for the future of Android, Chrome OS and even Microsof though? It could mean quite a bit actually.

The new head of Android is Sundar Pichai, who just happens to also be the Senior VP of Google Chrome and Apps. The writing is on the wall for what has been rumored for a really long time: a merger between Chrome OS and Android.

Chrome OS Could Get Android App Support

When Chrome OS was first put together, it was all about web apps and nothing more. Bringing in physical Android app support might seem like a totally opposite step in direction, and even if it sort of is: it makes sense.

Microsoft has taken on quite a bit of criticism with Windows 8 due to the major changes it brought to the desktop in its attempts to bridge the mobile and desktop world. The truth though is that even if Microsoft’s approach hasn’t been popular, I believe many companies see the merit in merging these worlds as evidenced by Apple slowly moving in this direction, Canonical announcing such technology with Ubuntu and the release of the touchscreen-based Google ChromeBook Pixel laptop.

Google could feel that while they want to continue to push web apps and the cloud, the world isn’t ready to completely ditch local, native apps and so the best way to move forward is to merge the two efforts. This could mean that Android could eventually run and maybe even ‘pin’ Chrome web apps to its homepages and it could also mean that Chrome OS could get the ability to install and run Android apps.

If this is true, perhaps Google web apps will start showing up in the Google Play store in the not terribly distant future, helping to further close the bridge between their platforms.

This approach makes a lot of sense, and could make Google a serious competitor for Microsoft in the desktop space.

How Easy and Practical Would Such a Move Be?

Technically speaking, it seems like little would need to be done here. Chrome OS is a highly secure web browser with a few other UI tweaks and enhancements lying on top of a Linux kernel. Adding a virtual machine that handles Android apps and is optimized to run at full-speed wouldn’t be exactly that difficult.

Additionally, creating a more robust Chrome browser for Android that would allow ‘pin-able’ Chrome apps wouldn’t be that big of a challenge either. But why would they do it?

The desktop market is continually shrinking, which makes you wonder if Google would even bother with it. The fact that Chrome OS exists at all proves that they still see the desktop world as a valuable place for growth.
Google makes its money through advertisements. These advertisements are seen and clicked on through Google services. The more platforms running Google services – the more money Google is making.

The timing could be right for a full scale invasion of the desktop world, and adding Android support to the mix could be the best way to launch such an attack. It seems like the ChromeBook Pixel was created specifically to prepare for this next chapter in Google’s history.

Should Microsoft be Worried?

While breaking into the desktop market isn’t an easy thing to do, that doesn’t mean Microsoft shouldn’t be worried. If bridging Android and Chrome OS brought in even as little as 10%-15% of the PC market in the next year or two, that would be a major loss for Microsoft that would be noticeable.

Chrome OS getting Android support might not necessarily spell the end for Microsoft, but it could give them their first ‘real’ competitor in the desktop OS market. Apple might be a competitor, but they have never really been able to garner much marketshare since they aren’t willing to work with partner vendors and wish to instead control both hardware and software.

What can Microsoft do to prepare for such an attack from Google? At this point, it is about further pushing their own hardware and their partner’s hardware. They need more form factors, including 7-inch tablets. They need to overcome some of the drama surrounding Windows 8.

Can they? It remains unseen, but I certainly think so. Microsoft should take caution and prepare, even if they don’t necessarily need to “worry” per-say. Of course there is always the possibility that the rumor mill is wrong and Google isn’t planning on merging Android and Chrome OS.

What do you think? Share your thoughts below.

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