Chrome OS: What’s the Point?


The world is certainly moving toward the ‘Cloud’, especially when we think of operating systems. One interesting question about such things is what does Google have in mind for Chrome and Android? There has been some interesting developments for Android that calls into question the utility and the future of Chrome – and when I’m talking about Chrome, I’m talking about it as an OS rather than a browser.

So far, Chrome OS has really had a hard time taking off. Sure there’s a few machines running it that you can buy right now, and a few of them show a lot of promise. I’d love to buy that Samsung laptop, personally. Overall, it has just not had the penetration that I think Google was hoping for. The Chrome browser, on the other hand, has seen tremendous adoption in the market. As well it should.  It’s pretty quick and has great capability for integration into cloud services. Somehow, these two story lines have not come together.

Samsung Chromebook
ChromeBooks can offer great performance at low prices, but they have suffered from poor sales.

On the other side, Android has been a juggernaut. It’s open-standard and no-price platform has made it easy and cost-effective in the fight against iOS. Being relatively easy on resources has also allowed it to move into a large and diverse cast of machines. Translating it to media players and tablets has been a simple affair, not to mention the strange and colourful world of embedded devices. While the adaptation proliferation of Android has made programming not the easiest thing to do, Google Play has grown to be just as formidable as the iTunes store in terms of app downloads and app choices.

All of this Android expansion has recently seen some intriguing developments. First has been the creation of Android emulators available for regular computers. With offerings like BlueStacks, you can run Android apps on your PC. You get access to the Google Play store and can operate it just as you would through your mobile device. The apps are the same and can even run in the background, as well as being run side-by-side with PC-based software. This allows the user to copy and paste across both systems. While BlueStacks may have been designed for gamers, the business implications are pretty exciting as well.

What can Chrome offer that Android doesn’t?

The second development is that there are a few larger names making laptops and desktops with Android as the primary OS. With trends turning more towards the touch and pushing things to remote servers, the choice of Android as a desktop OS seems to be a good solution, especially when factoring in the cost savings the OS gives by running efficiently on older or slower hardware. This will become more and more important as costs are further squeezed in the essentially commodity PC market.

Where then does that leave Chrome OS?  If you can now run Android on PCs and you have manufacturers threatening to ship OEM versions, what can Chrome give that Android doesn’t? If this sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the same question pondered when buying a Windows RT device over a Windows Pro device. The difference between the Google issue and Windows is that Chrome is really not optimised for touch and Android already has a browser, making Chrome OS more and more an interesting footnote in Google’s history rather than a way to the future.




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