The Pixel C (pictured above) was announced at the end of September along with the new Nexus devices and it was strange to see Google use the Pixel branding for an Android tablet. In fact, when the rumors first appeared, I thought it had to be fake. I was proven wrong of course, and the Pixel C is one hell of an Android tablet, with big dollops of a certain Chromebook’s DNA thrown in. On the face of things, it would seem like the Pixel C is an admission from Google that “we don’t know what we’re doing with Android tablets” but it’s probably closer to writing on the wall where a Chrome OS-Android merger is concerned. This merger of the two operating systems has been rumored for years and recently the Wall Street Journal through their hat into the ring, saying a merger of the two could be as soon as next year. I think they’re right.
I’m a big fan of Chrome OS, and while I can’t entirely get everything I need done on my Chromebook 14, it’s nice to have around. I moved to a Surface 3 recently for my tablet/laptop duties as it delivers an actual Desktop operating system as well as a passable tablet experience. I would however, take a Chromebook over a generic Windows laptop any day. They have better displays, much better keyboards and trackpads that are disturbingly better than those found on laptops twice the price. The problem that Google has at the moment, is that they have two very good operating systems, each with their own pieces of the puzzle, yet they don’t talk to each other.
Google services and their sync platform for Chrome and so on helps fill in the gaps, but it’s time for the two systems to merge. I’ve been wary of a merger of a mobile operating system and a slick, web-focused Desktop operating system for some time now. It has however, become increasingly clear that Google has no interest in filling in the gaps that Android has, and so folding the two together can help paste over the cracks in Android and make Chrome OS a lot more versatile as well. Chrome OS has the Desktop side of things covered, sure you can only really use the Web, but it’s the Desktop Web unlike the poor Chrome we have on Android. If you’re someone that uses mostly web apps on your laptop or PC, then Chrome OS will probably work just fine for you, but it’s not all that exciting, and this is where Android comes in.
With lots of apps, games and of course simple and easy-to-use apps for Netflix, Kindle and more Android could turn a Chromebook into an entertainment device. Chrome OS can already help get work done, there’s Google Docs and Microsoft Office online, but there are also good Android apps for Office now as well. It would be the joining of the best of both worlds, just imagine an Android tablet that when docked became a Chromebook, with full access to all the user’s Android apps?
Chrome OS also has actually multitasking as well. You can have as many windows open as you want, and switch between them, have two windows open on your display at once and so on. This is something Android sorely needs, and with devices like the new Samsung Galaxy View and its massive 18-inch display launching, stock Android cannot hold out without a multi-window solution for much longer.
The recent Wall Street Journal report has clearly rattled some cages, Hiroshi Lockheimer, now in charge of both Chrome OS and Android recently reaffirmed Google’s commitment to Chrome OS. That’s fine. Google can be as committed as they like to Chrome OS, it doesn’t have to be this Chrome OS. Education is where Chromebooks are really taking off, and they wouldn’t suffer because of a merger with Android, they’d get better. There are thousands of decent games to help kids learn and unwind a little in the Play Store, and Google Play for Education is a way to deploy and control that. Having one device with both Chrome OS and Android in would be a powerful play in schools.
Chrome OS isn’t perfect, but it’s come a long, long way from the laughing stock people thought it was and it’s now a very viable platform for a lot of different users. Google has evolved the platform steadily over time into something that people can use to get things done and do so without breaking the bank. Android however, has stayed much the same, and tablets from Google and their partners are mostly just giant smartphones. Folding the two together will be advantageous for both of them, and considering both Microsoft and Apple now offer powerful tablets that are so much more than just giant smartphones, Google need to get their act together, and fast.