Can Google’s Dual-OS Strategy Work?

September 1, 2010 - Written By Chris Yackulic

Among the dozen of Android tablets that are about to launch soon, Google and HTC are supposedly getting ready to release a tablet with Chrome OS this fall. This rumor has raised many eye-brows, because many people don’t think this strategy will succeed. They think Google is confusing people and competing against themselves.

Is Google making a mistake by developing 2 tablet OS’s? And why are they making 2 OS’s in the first place? Let’s see, shall we?

The reason why Google started developing 2 OS’s is not hard to understand. They simply didn’t expect the 2 OS’s paths to intersect. They bought the Android company and its OS because they believed in a smartphone world. And when they saw the potential of iPhone, they truly realized what a good smartphone can do, so they pushed forward to make a mobile OS like iPhone’s, but more open and for every manufacturer to use. They knew that if it gets adopted by some, then Android will have to potential to become something close to Windows in the PC world, except for smartphones.

So what’s up with Chrome OS then? They built Chrome OS because they’ve noticed the trend that shows that people are using the web more and more. Most people already spend 90% of their time in the browser, and with HTML5 and more advanced web apps, it was easy to see that you could soon do pretty much anything you can on a PC, inside the browser.

Since Google is a company that lives inside your browser, they should be the ones that promote a “web-only” world the most, and make it so that future happens faster. Chrome OS is the project that can help them push that idea to people.

However, since they started working on Chrome OS, things have changed. Apple has basically started a new category of computing devices – the tablets, which push even harder the idea of mobile apps. I know what you’re going to say. Apple didn’t invent tablets. Fair enough. But they did jump-start the category. Apple has already captured 99% of the tablet market since a few months ago when they launched iPad, so what does that say about the previous tablet market? It wasn’t really a product category that people noticed before the iPad.

But how does this change things for Google?

Google was going to offer Chrome OS to netbooks, because those were the “portable Internet computers” before iPad launched. But now those netbooks aren’t the ones that offer the best web browsing experience anymore – it’s the tablets. With a tablet you can literally hold the Internet in your hands and manipulate it at will with your fingers, which is much more intuitive and pleasant.

Also, a lot are saying that tablets are the future of computing. I think they are mainly right. Multi-touch computing is where it’s at, simply because it’s so much more natural for us to touch the interfaces with our hands, than to use an intermediary tool like a mouse.

So now Google faces a weird problem. They are going to offer a “forward thinking web-only OS” on a “dying” form factor (netbook). Why wouldn’t they offer this forward thinking OS on a forward thinking form factor – the tablet? Plus, I’m sure people are still used to Windows on laptop-like form factors, so it would be much easier to accept Chrome OS on a tablet.

But then where does that leave Android OS? Most people think that’s the obvious choice for a tablet is Android, since it resembles iOS much more than Chrome OS does. This is why Google needs to clearly specify the benefits of a stand-alone Chrome versus a Chrome browser inside Windows or even Android (Chrome already got ported to Google TV).

Is Chrome OS much better than Chrome in Windows or Android? Google has promised that Chrome will have the same features everywhere. So then only the performance issue remains. Can Chrome OS be 50% faster than its counterparts?

The 7 second boot time it’s not even going to be relevant when put against Android, because Android is an always on OS, and it takes even less than 7 seconds to access the browser in Android.

If Chrome OS doesn’t have anything significant to show off for itself compared to its little brother, Chrome the browser, it won’t make a lot of sense to buy a Chrome OS tablet instead of an Android one.

Perhaps the only difference will be the price, Chrome OS tablets being half the price of an Android tablet, or free on contract.

What do you think? Would you buy an Android tablet or a Chrome OS one? And why?