Tech Talk: Chrome OS As A Convergence Platform - Why Not?

Device convergence is real, and it's happening whether anybody likes it or not, though most people seem to dig it. Check out Samsung's new Galaxy S8 and its DeX platform for reference. There are also tons of accessories that can turn your phone into a laptop, tablet, or desktop, and a slew of mostly failed hardware released over the years for just that purpose. The problem with all of these solutions so far has mostly been, believe it or not, that they were simply too far ahead of their time. Imagine a revived Atrix lapdock as a Moto Mod for the Moto Z; whereas before, the interface was sluggish, battery life suffered, and the device was less than capable, the Moto Z's Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 CPU could push an intuitive shell with a truly capable core. Let's not forget that there are a number of Android users out there emulating real x86 Linux or even Windows on their phones, and that the Snapdragon 835 is purpose-built for this sort of thing. The only question left is what OS should be used. You may be saying, "Why not just use Android?", but there are a few valid reasons that there's a better potential competitor out there; Chrome OS.

Chrome OS is a low-power, high-capability OS that focuses on delivering a desktop browsing experience, including things like Adobe Flash. WebGL and ARM processors powerful enough to blow some 2010-class PC hardware out of the water with room to spare, along with Android apps on Chrome OS, point to convergence as a clear possibility for the platform's future. Imagining it, it could be a pretty sweet future. You have your Chrome OS phone, with Chrome at the center of it all, and Android apps to pick up the slack. Thanks to the lightweight OS, it boasts massive battery life and good speed. Native web apps are improving, too, as browsers get more and more high-end APIs that allow you to do everything from getting serious 3D work done to viewing VR content. With x86 emulation on board, you could even get your hands on some of the applications and games that, these days, you can only find on a PC, usually a Windows one. So, you pop this future phone into a desktop or laptop dock, and you have the exact same OS. A new interface is on the screen, perhaps the same one that Chrome OS uses now. All your stuff is there, and it's essentially just a bigger screen and battery, along with a keyboard and maybe a mouse. This is what convergence should be, and it's what Chrome OS could accomplish, if Google plays their cards right. So, what would have to happen to make this phone a reality?

For starters, Google would have to maintain full control. They already are, in the Chrome OS space, and it would have to stay that way. Fully secure. Automatically updated. Packed with only the essentials, with Google services integrated through full desktop Chrome, including all the bits and bobs like Google Assistant, notifications, and Gmail integration, among others. The Chrome Web Store needs to be packed to the brim with native-built web apps. While this area of development is still in its infancy, its promise is great; a browser can do almost everything under the hood that the OS it's running on can do at this point, and apps written for web APIs would only have to be written once, rather than endlessly ported. Give developers the motivation to start porting over hardcore productivity apps and AAA games, and you have yourself a one-stop shop of a platform. The piece of the puzzle that would make it all coherent, though, would be popularity. Android is popular because it's free and OEMs can build it out how they want. Chrome OS in its current form is popular because of its unique, low-power, low-cost approach to computing. Since giving OEMs control would result in fragmentation, which would turn Chrome OS into another Android, the answer is to capitalize on what Chrome OS does best. If a phone can do everything a consumer needs it to do, can do it fast, can do it on a pretty screen, can keep doing it for a long time without charging, and can cost enough to tantalize the lower-end market, then success is practically guaranteed. Bring this approach to a convergence-focused form of Chrome OS with Android compatibility on top to wean users and developers toward web apps, and Google could have a real game changer on their hands.

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Daniel Fuller

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, and hot gaming news in the Android world. Contact him at [email protected]
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