Tech Talk: Can Chrome OS Do What Android Should Have?

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If people were asked who the most innovative mobile OEM is, Samsung would likely be high up in the collective ranks, and for good reason. While TouchWiz is divisive, it also brought quick settings, multi-window, and a good number of other Android features that everybody takes for granted these days. This happened because Android in its early form needed a boost, and Google let OEMs give them that boost. Chrome OS, however, is far more locked down. With Chromebooks on the rise, rather than a fresh face on a crowded scene like Android was, Google has enough room to draw a clear line that OEMs can't cross, and that is messing around with the system UI. No Chromebook you lay hands on will run any differently at its core and on the default OS, than any other. With the exception of some Chrome web apps that may only work on x86 processor types, every Chromebook out there can fit the same use cases in the same ways. Samsung is known for differentiating on the software side, and the delay of their Chromebook Pro, a machine that seems all but ready to hit shelves, may point to them starting something far bigger than themselves.

If OEMs can't mess around with Chrome OS itself, and the Chrome OS app ecosystem lives in web apps, what's left? Android apps, of course. Android app and Play Store support is in beta for a number of Chromebooks right now, and will be hitting stable status with availability on almost all Chrome OS devices in the very near future. Have a good look at the Samsung Chromebook Pro. Yep, that's a Stylus. Without any additional software on top of Chrome OS, the PEN as it's known here, is just another stylus. Maybe it has a pressure sensitive tip that lets you control line thickness, or some other bells and whistles, but Galaxy Note owners know its potential. That potential is unlocked through apps. Samsung's own apps, especially the S-Note app, are the difference between dipping a Nintendo DS stylus in capacitive rubber and unsheathing a glorious S-Pen to get stuff done. So, what if that's Samsung's game plan? If that's the case, it may be feasible for everybody to follow suit. In fact, this may be just what OEMs have been waiting for.

If Samsung is holding back on the Chromebook Pro until Android apps are out of beta so that they can release their own apps that are exclusive to the device, they'll not only differentiate and add value to a device without throwing their own skin on top of it, but they'll be giving consumers a choice. Want S-Note? Great. Don't want it? Remove it. All this without having to resort to rooting or other hacks. That last bit is important, because the Samsung Chromebook Pro is based on an ARM processor, as are many other Chromebooks. If you don't like the software on an x86 Chromebook, throw Linux on it. Maybe use CloudReady or Remix OS instead, or reach for the impractical stars and subject the poor device to the rigors of Windows. The joys of an Intel processor are freedoms just such as this. In the world of ARM, your choices are a bit more limited, and most Chromebooks with ARM processors are completely locked down anyway. Chrome OS isn't for everybody, and will never be, but for the people that it's made for, it's a great experience as it is. If the speculation that Samsung is backing off to wait for full Play Store functionality to push their own Android apps as value-adds to their flagship Chromebook, it will confirm the new paradigm; people can choose a Chromebook based solely on hardware if they like the core experience, while loyalists and those who happen to buy something from an OEM who's gone down the app development road can enjoy exclusive functionality.

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Senior Staff Writer

Daniel has been writing for Android Headlines since 2015, and is one of the site's Senior Staff Writers. He's been living the Android life since 2010, and has been interested in technology of all sorts since childhood. His personal, educational and professional backgrounds in computer science, gaming, literature, and music leave him uniquely equipped to handle a wide range of news topics for the site. These include the likes of machine learning, Voice assistants, AI technology development news in the Android world. Contact him at [email protected]

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