Android, Chrome OS Merger: Why It Makes Sense - InformationWeek
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11/6/2015
09:06 AM
Pablo Valerio
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Android, Chrome OS Merger: Why It Makes Sense

Google has not confirmed reports that it intended to merge Chrome OS and Android. Is the idea really that far-fetched? Here's how the resulting products of such a marriage would be beneficial to users and the enterprise.

10 Google Milestones: From Stanford Dorm To Alphabet
10 Google Milestones: From Stanford Dorm To Alphabet
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Despite the lack of official confirmation by Google, it looks like the tech giant is working on integrating its two main operating systems, Chrome OS and Android.

For those who have never tried a Chromebook or Chromebox, Chrome OS is the streamlined operating system based on the Chrome browser that powers those laptops and desktops. (I'm writing this article on an Acer Chromebox using Google Docs.)

Chrome OS is not a full-featured operating system, as are Windows and the Mac OS. But it gives good basic functionality for people who need a reliable, easy-to-use PC, without worrying about security, viruses, malware, or having the latest updates.

After moving back to Barcelona three years ago, my trusty Dell XPS laptop running Windows XP started to give me some problems, mostly related to battery and performance -- nothing strange for a five-year-old laptop. It was still working well, but I felt the need to replace it.

I didn't like the idea of getting a Windows 7 laptop. Windows started to feel heavy to me. Dealing with constant updates, security issues, and hardware compatibility challenges was too much. I wanted a simple, task-oriented OS. And, despite the fact that my wife is an Apple groupie, I was not ready to move into the Mac world.

Then I discovered Chromebooks.

I had already been using Google Apps (now Google for Work) for several years, and most of my work, including writing for InformationWeek and several of its sister UBM publications, was done on Google Docs and Sheets. I love the idea of keeping important files in the cloud and not having to worry about transferring data between devices.

At the same time, I was trying to do some work on the go using an Android tablet, paired with a Bluetooth keyboard. While the basic functionality was fine for writing emails and editing articles, the tablet didn't have the same functionality as a laptop. The most frustrating part was that Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides worked differently on Android than they did in a Chrome browser. Many of the editing features running Google Docs on the Chrome browser were missing on the Android app.

(Image: JasminSeidel/iStockphoto)

(Image: JasminSeidel/iStockphoto)

I decided to give Chromebooks a try. In Nov. 2013, I purchased a Samsung 11.6-inch model that was popular at the time and immediately fell in love. Booting took only five seconds; the battery lasted up to seven hours; and, while the performance was not comparable to many Windows laptops, it was great for a $250 laptop. Measuring 0.7 inch (18 mm) thick and weighing 2.4 pounds (1.1 kg) it was easy to take anywhere, especially without the power adapter.

But I was missing a few applications from Windows and Android. Chromebooks do not support Skype, the most-used tool for international communications. You can't install Office or any other Windows application, although Google's apps allow you to open any Office document and edit it directly. I also found Google Hangouts to have better quality than Skype for video conferencing, but that application is not as popular.

Android, however, has those applications. When I need to use Skype I switch to my Nexus tablet or Sony Xperia phone. When I need to check the weather, exchange rates, or open a special media file, there is an Android app for that.

Chrome OS already has many applications on the Chrome Web Store, but their number is nothing compared to Android. Android devices also lack the look and feel of apps running on Chrome.

That is why a merger of Chrome OS with Android would be a great thing. I need a good screen and keyboard. If I can get a 12-inch android tablet that gives me the same functionality of the Chromebook, plus all the Android apps, I will give it a try.

But I could also look for a 13-inch laptop running the new Android, knowing that all the functionality I already have on the Chrome devices is going to be there, in addition to all of the Android apps. The best thing about Chromebooks is their low price and great performance.

For users who want a high-end laptop, Google also sells a premium Chromebook, the Pixel, a 13-inch touchscreen computer with 2560 x 1700 resolution and a high-performance Intel Core i7 processor.

[Read Google Chromebooks Pitched for Work, Again.]

Chromebooks are already making their way to the enterprise, especially in places where there is an emphasis on security, such as banks and insurance companies. Because you can't install external apps, IT can manage the Chrome devices easily, and the PowerWash feature can be triggered remotely in case a machine is compromised.

Google and its partners are already selling different configurations of Chrome devices for work in areas such as Video Conferencing, Digital Signage, and Customer Service Kiosks, among others. A partnership between Google and VMware allows Chromebooks to be used to run virtualized applications.

I'm currently using two Chrome OS devices, an Acer Chromebox paired with a 23-inch monitor and a Logitech wireless keyboard, and an Acer Chromebook 13 that gives me 10 hours of battery power and a 13-inch full-HD display. To keep Windows compatibility I have (in the corner of my home office), the old Dell laptop, which I rarely use.

I am looking forward to the possible integration of Chrome OS into Android. It will make life easier and give me the choice of using any device, anywhere, with any app.

The only thing I am not looking forward to is Android malware making its way to my computer.

Pablo Valerio has been in the IT industry for 25+ years, mostly working for American companies in Europe. Over the years he has developed channels, established operations, and served as European general manager for several companies. While primarily based in Spain, he has ... View Full Bio
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TimSmall2
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TimSmall2,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/30/2015 | 5:55:02 AM
Security and device management are ChromeOS strongpoints
Chrome OS:

Security updates on Chrome OS and frequent, timely, centrally managed by Google, install automatically without annoying the user and just work.

All user data stored on the device is encrypted by default.

User crypto secrets are securely stored (hardware assisted) on all hardware.

Easily centrally managed to the extent that Chrome OS devices are now outselling Apple in the educational sector.

 

Android:

Security updates on Android are a horrific mess.  Top tier Android vendors leave handsets unpatched for months on end against serious security bugs, Google retains no central control, updates are massive and often take > 10 minutes to install.

All user data is NOT encrypted by default, enabling full disk encryption has caused various performance issues (although this is changing).

Most hardware doesn't include strong crypto storage hardware assist.

Poor centralised management.

 

I use both platforms, but can't recommend Android for anything security concious or centrally managed.

 

Security is a central part of the original ChromeOS design and it shows...
nasimson
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nasimson,
User Rank: Ninja
11/23/2015 | 8:17:00 AM
Merging makes sense
ChromeOS is less popular. Android is most popular. Android devices are getting as powerful as Chrome Devices. Merging makes perfect sense.
mak63
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mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
11/9/2015 | 4:13:31 PM
Re: When it comes to mergers, think compromises
Specs

Isn't a Core i7 a little overkill for a Chrombook? I wonder if you can install Windows 10 on one of those.
danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Ninja
11/9/2015 | 2:36:52 PM
Re: Yes...it makes perfect sense
Ever since the concept of Chrome OS was proposed by Google publicly, I loved the idea. But at this point, things have changed. 

In 2009 during Chrome OS's earliest stages, many of us thought the web would become the defacto platform on the internet. That hasn't actually happened. Mobile apps are really successful because people are moving away from desktop devices. This is why Chrome OS and Android merging makes a lot of sense. 
Pablo Valerio
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Pablo Valerio,
User Rank: Ninja
11/8/2015 | 1:19:16 PM
Re: When it comes to mergers, think compromises
Charlie, I'm not looking forward to install Android apps on my Chromebook. I just want to run them, on the cloud, on demand.

Most Chrome devices have limited storage, usually 2GB or 4GB RAM, and only 16 GB SSD (leaving about 9GB free). That is not enough to install most the apps people use. The typical high-end smartphone comes with 32GB or 64GB.

Some Android apps are now becoming available on ChromeOS, but you can't install them on the device.
TomG288
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TomG288,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/7/2015 | 7:18:33 AM
Simplicity of Chrome
I have been using Chrome as my browser of choice for years running first on Windows Vista and then on Windows 10.  And you know what; Chrome always just works.  I don't have to do periodic updates.  I don't have locked up apps that fail to work or failed applications and compatability issue I frequently experience in Windows however Windows 10 is significanlty better.  But in the end Chrome just works.  It starts fast, I never have to update it and it gives me access to everything I need.  

Now I also have an Android phone and of course it runs Android 4.4.2.  It was made someplace in China and sold in the U.S. by a company almost no one has ever heard of called BLU.  But the phone works well, I can text, talk and take 8 megapixel pictures which looik just fine for my casual use.  But I have accepted the fact that the phone will NEVER be updated by either Google OR BLU and that is the rub I see.  

Android is not Chrome.  Android does not start fast, does not get pushed updates by Google and uses apps developed by everyone and anyone on the planet.  These apps can inflict significant damage to the Android operating system.  Did I mention that Android as I understand it DOES NOT get pushed updates like Chrome.  

I see my grandsons using their Android tablets which are some pretty nice devices, quad core, 1 GB Ram, 8 GB of memory, nice tablets.  If they start their tablets at the same time I start Windows 10, Windows 10 is loaded and ready for use before their Android tablets are ready.  I do run an SSD in my desktop which helps Windows 10 start quickly but really, Android is no where near the speed of Chrome.  

I sincerely hope Google gets its act together and IF they joint the two operating systems together I hope they take into consideration the differences between a desktop user and a mobile user.  I don't use my phone for word processing or management of a spreadsheet.  I don't use my desktop to do video chats since a mobile device works better for that funciton.  My phone has a 5" screen, my desktop has a 22" screen.  Just becasue you can join two opeating sytems together does NOT mean that is what is best for the user.  

Thank you for reading this very lengthy posting.  

 

 

 

 
Li Tan
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Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
11/7/2015 | 1:42:27 AM
Re: Yes...it makes perfect sense
This is a correct step forward since it will enable Google to build a stronger ecosystem. In an ecosystem the end user should enjoy the same, smooth and frustration-free user experience instead of taking care of difference among OSes.
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
11/6/2015 | 7:54:19 PM
When it comes to mergers, think compromises
Pablo is laying out a good case for an Android/Chrome merger. But in addition to the gains, there would most likely be some trade-off losses. For example, I'm not sure you'd retain the "boots in five seconds" attribute, and with a bigger, more complicated operating system, the battery life might come closer to that of a Windows laptop than a Chromebook. Compromises would have to be made. But who knows.
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
11/6/2015 | 11:22:30 AM
Yes...it makes perfect sense
Excellent article!

And i concur with your statement...merging Android and Chrome OS makes sense in many ways. I think Chromebooks would greatly benefit from having the android playstore available, the same way Windows 10 PC have with the Windows App Store.

If this was to occur, it would definitly boost Google to become a true leader in both the laptop and tablet space, since it's bridging the Gap that many have been trying to fill. I think Microsoft has so far become the closest from a hardware perspective, but the lack of App is holding it back...but this isn't the case for Google.

If a Chromebook is able to run Android Apps, you have a winner!!

That means that extenders like Chromecast will have additional functionality that can be leveraged...not to mention wearables.

I'm already excited!!
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