On Friday, Google’s founder Larry Page announced that Sundar Pichai has been promoted to running most of Google’s front line services, so that his remit now covers Android, Chrome, Google Apps, Google Search, Google Maps, research, commerce and advertisements. CNET today is running the story that the ties between Android and Chrome OS are tightening but that we shouldn’t be expecting a merger of these two business units any time soon. And this is exactly as I would expect: Android and Chrome OS are similar in as many respects as they are different! The closer cooperation between the two teams is exactly what we should have been seeing three years ago, rather than the two units being run at a somewhat arms’ length. Sundar Pichai is responsible for bringing these two teams closer together and organizing projects such as the ability to get some Android applications running over Chrome OS. This is an idea that ingenious developers have run with so we also have an unofficial method for this too.
I do expect us to see a greater level of cooperation between the Chromebook (or Chromebox) and the Android smartdevice, be this a smartphone, tablet or Android Wear unit. We already see cooperation in that if the same Google account is signed into each of these devices, the same information is shared amongst the hardware. I also believe we’re going to see cooperation Chrome OS, Android devices and other smartdevices that have yet to be revealed to us. This is part of the Internet of Things, or IoT, which is the next stage of integration between electronic devices and should work together to improve our quality of life. We’ve already seen plans for Google to simplify using a Chromebook by a smart unlock process, whereby the Chromebook will not require the same level of security if a Trusted Device is close to it (detected via Bluetooth). Users will be able to set their Android Wear smartwatch, or smartphone, as a Trusted Device to simplify using the Chromebook.
CNET also tries to make a story regarding the fragmentation within the Android sphere, seemingly copying words from, well, pretty much any of Apple’s criticism of Android. Of course, it’s in Apple’s interests to call out Google Android in this respect because they deliver new software updates to older hardware: all of Apple’s mobile products with a dual core processor have access to iOS 8. Google have worked hard under Sundar’s leadership to encourage manufacturers to release new products running the current or near-current version of Android and to update the software for eighteen months after release. It’s an imperfect solution to the problem caused by giving customers massive choice, but there are structural reasons why it’s less of an issue than CNET and Apple paint (such as Google Services automagically rolling out new features without a messy software update). To say nothing of how horrible an old iPhone running a new version of iOS is.