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Chrome OS and Android Aren’t Merging; More Clarification at Google I/O?

May 13, 2013 - Written By Tom Dawson

Sundar Pichai has become a very busy man over the last few months. As if heading up Google’s Chrome division, which spans Chromebooks, Chrome on Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, iOS and Android wasn’t enough, he recently became the head of Android as well. When Andy Rubin, the mastermind behind our green friend, stepped down earlier in the year, it was a sort of surprise when Sundar Pichai took up the roll. Not because Mr Pichai is an incapable fellow, certainly not, he took Chrome from an upstart browser to a word synonymously associated with the Internet in just a few years. It was a surprise because, he is the head of Chrome and now he’s gone to head up Android as well.

We reported on Sundar talking to Wired earlier, and that he alluded to I/O 13 being a much more developer-centric event. Astute readers will have read the whole article from Wired and realized that he touched a few more things besides Google I/O. When Sundar Pichai moved to take over Android, it sparked rumors across the internet that this must mean that Android and Chrome are finally merging, this isn’t the case as Pichai sees it. To him, both platforms have their own identity, he had this to say while talking to Wired:

Now that you’re in this new position, have your views evolved in terms of the coexistence of Chrome and Android?
I don’t think my views have changed much. Android and Chrome are both large, open platforms, growing very fast. I think that they will play a strong role, not merely exist. I see this as part of friendly innovation and choice for both users and developers.

As an avid user of both Chrome OS and Android, I can definitely see the differences between them, I might sound crazy to some folks but, I have never once looked at my Chromebook and wished it ran Android, or some OS conjured from the both of them. Both systems are very large, and serve their own purposes. Of course, it could be considered a little confusing:

But can’t it be confusing having two operating systems?
Users care about applications and services they use, not operating systems. Very few people will ask you, “Hey, how come MacBooks are on Mac OS-X and iPhone and iPad are on iOS? Why is this?” They think of Apple as iTunes, iCloud, iPhoto. Developers are people, too. They want to write applications one time, but they also want choice. What excites me in this new role is that I can try do the right thing for users and developers — without worrying about the fact that we have two things. We embrace both and we are continuing to invest in both. So in the short run, nothing changes. In the long run, computing itself will dictate the changes. We’re living through a pivotal moment. It’s a world of multiple screens, smart displays, with tons of low-cost computing, with big sensors built into devices. At Google we ask how to bring together something seamless and beautiful and intuitive across all these screens. The picture may look different a year or two from now, but in the short-term, we have Android and we have Chrome, and we are not changing course.

I’m on the same page as Sundar here. I no longer think of my Chromebook as a laptop running Chrome OS. It’s a window to my music from Google Play, I can watch Netflix on it, I can deal with my e-mail etc. My Chromebook is just another way to get online but, it’s a far more fulfilling experience than my Nexus 7 is, I love my Nexus 7 but trying to deal with e-mail on it is awful compared to the Chromebook.

Several analysts think they are in for some clarification on just what the two Operating Systems are good for, and why Google don’t have one OS instead of two. It’s funny to hear what Analysts have to come with and here’s Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights and Strategy had to say:

“Mid term, between three to five years, Chrome and Android need to converge. Over the last few years, Chrome has become more like Android and Android has adopted Chrome features. If it keeps moving in this direction, it will just result in confusion. Having two different experiences that are similar is a waste of time, energy and resources to the ecosystem of OEMs, developers and sales channels.”

I can’t help but shake my head at this. I don’t see Google advertising a laptop running Android, do you? And as for Android adopting features of Chrome, well, running a mobile version of the browser that Windows, Linux and Mac OS X is hardly adopting features. Do Windows and Chrome need to merge because I use Chrome on my PC so much? I cannot agree with the idea that this causes confusion. If I want to buy something running Chrome OS, I go and buy a Chromebook, if I want an Android device, I seek out a smartphone or tablet.

What do you think? Is it confusing to have Chrome and Android co-existing? Will we finally have the answer we want at this year’s I/O?

[Sources: Wired, Computer World]