Google Going Big: Chrome OS, Android, and Decisions to be Made

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androidMobile technology is getting bigger and bigger, and we’re seeing crossovers between desktop/laptop functionality and tablets, especially since 2015 brought the first really useable hybrids to the market. Apple’s iPad Pro went full speed ahead with its current incarnation of iOS, and Microsoft’s Surface, of course, is using Windows 10, which was designed with touchscreens in mind.

Android devices use Android (of course)… but Google doesn’t seem to want to commit to this. Instead, it’s pushing manufacturers of laptops and convertibles to use Chrome OS, with the intent of making Android apps compatible with Chrome OS. It’s a seemingly bizarre choice, especially as the generation that grew up on Android and iOS prepare to enter the workforce. These operating systems should be getting ready to make the transition to bigger screens and greater productivity. Why would Google want to abandon Android at this critical moment, let alone introduce a new and different OS for its larger products?

Part of the reason could be the fact that Google has lost its grip on Android; everyone from carriers to manufacturers have tinkered with the open source OS to create their own versions. That’s allowed them to disengage from what Google had planned for Android’s monetization—dependence on its services and ads.

Chrome OS, on the other hand, won’t be making that mistake. In fact, you’ll need a Google ID just to start it up. While some people might be fine with this level of control, the fact is that third party vendors aren’t going to stop making Android tablets or convertibles, which is going to put Google in the awkward position of competing with its own mobile OS.

And that’s not just because Google won’t open up Chrome OS. On the contrary, these manufacturers believe, as Apple does, that the current generation is going to want Android and iOS as primary operating systems. They’re certainly not going to be enthusiastic about a third OS with questionable Android app compatibility.

The only way Google could capture part of the market is by going cheaper than even third party vendors (unlikely to be possible), or by competing with Apple in terms of style and brand loyalty. But we’ve yet to see Google pull off the same kind of trendiness in terms of hardware, and while many people are diehard Google fans, they’re typically fans of its services rather than its physical products. That is, after all, the fan base that Google actively worked to create.

2016 is going to be a very interesting year for tablets and 2 in 1s and Google needs to tread carefully. Android may be able to, potentially, give iPhone a run for its money, but its premium tablets don’t’ even touch the iPad in terms of attractiveness or popularity. Microsoft’s smartphones may be almost ludicrously ill-fated, but its new tablets are quality productivity machines. Google needs to back its winning horse—in this case Android—if it really wants a piece of the convertible market.