Will Google Merge Android and Chrome OS into a Single System?
Long-circulating speculation that Google might one day merge its Chrome and Android operating systems got a boost this week after reports surfaced that the launch of a unified OS is planned for 2017.
Citing "people familiar with the matter," the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Google expects to preview the merged OS sometime next year.
The development appears to make sense in light of the growing influence of mobile computing and the fact that users expect be able to handle tasks anywhere, anytime, and on any device. Android is currently the world's leading mobile OS, while Chrome powers a niche market of Google Chromebooks on the desktop side.
Convergence First Mentioned in 2009
Talk about an eventual Android/Chrome merger has been circulating since at least late 2009, when Google co-founder Sergey Brin told reporters following a Chrome OS presentation that "Android and Chrome will likely converge over time."
Other developments since then seem to indicate that convergence is still likely at some point. Last September, Google announced it was making its Chromebooks "even more mobile by bringing the first set of Android apps to Chrome OS."
Two months ago, Google also revealed it would be coming out with a new tablet -- the Pixel C -- that would be based on Android rather than on the Chrome OS. When he announced the new device, expected to hit the market around the holidays, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said it would be "the first Android device focused on productivity."
Google Still 'Committed' to Chrome OS
Following the Wall Street Journal's report, Hiroshi Lockheimer, Google's senior vice president for Android, Chromecast and Chrome OS, noted on his Twitter account that Chromebooks continue to enjoy "a ton of momentum" and that Google remains "very committed to Chrome OS."
Mobile computing, on the other hand, is also seeing plenty of momentum, leading tech companies to bring more of a desktop experience to mobile devices.
For example, Microsoft's latest update to its Windows OS -- Windows 10 -- made the system a universal platform, meaning the same code powers computing across all devices, i.e., smartphones, tablets and desktop computers. Windows 10 includes a feature called Continuum that enables Microsoft's newest Windows-powered smartphones to function like miniature, handheld PCs when they're connected to keyboards and mice.
Such capabilities currently put Microsoft at something of an advantage compared to Google. The Wall Street Journal article noted that an OS merger could help Google attract a wider base of users for its cloud-based productivity apps.
"As employees do more work on smartphones and tablets, they expect software and documents to be updated on those devices as well as PCs," the article concluded. "That is now a challenge for Google because of the two operating systems."