Google intends to combine its 2 OSs, Chrome and Android, into a single OS that will run on both PCs and mobile devices. With this move, the Chrome OS will be folded into the far more popular Android brand. The Chrome OS should not be confused with the Chrome web browser, which will still be developed by Google under the Chrome name. The new OS should be unveiled in 2017, but an early version is expected to be demonstrated some time next year.
Engineers at Google have been at work on this problem for two years, however combining the two OSs has posed serious challenges as they have major design differences. Chrome was designed for a web-centric experience, encouraging users to access apps through its the Chrome Broswer, while Android requires apps to be downloaded to the device in order to be run. Another difference between Chrome and Android is that Chrome allows multiple apps to run at the same time and makes it easier to switch between different tasks. Android, largely due to the smaller screen size on mobile devices, only allows one app to run at a time, and is slightly more difficult to switch to a different app. Despite these differences, Google engineers have made major progress recently in combining the two OSs.
This move may be brought about by the relative unpopularity of Chrome among both users and developers. Chrome has a relatively low market share, accounting for less than 3% of PCs. Android on the other hand is the most popular OS in the world, running on over a billion devices world wide. Google has had little luck attracting developers to the Chrome platform, and the OS has relatively few apps available compared to Android. This new combined OS would bring the Google Play store to PCs, and perhaps allow Google to grab a larger portion of the PC market share.
Microsoft has adopted a similar approach, making a a version of Windows 10 that can run on mobile devices, allowing some apps to run on both PCs and mobile devices. Apple on the other hand has decided to develop separate OSs for PCs and mobile devices. Apple CEO Tim Cook stated last month that combining them “subtracts from both, and you don’t get the best experience from either.” We will have to wait and see if Google is capable of developing a single OS that can deliver the best experience on PC and mobile devices.
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