News emerged on Thursday that Google will consolidate Chrome OS — the operating system that runs on the company’s Chromebooks — into Android, Google’s mobile OS.
Google will likely rebrand its line of Chromebooks, according to the Wall Street Journal.
This makes a lot of sense.
Chrome OS and Chromebooks have their merits: They’re low cost computers for doing the one thing most of us need computers for, and that’s browsing the web.
But that’s a tough sell when you can already browse the web on your smartphone or tablet.
Chromebooks appeal to people for niche use cases, but they’re not popular enough, certainly not for Google. That’s because they’re not reaching their potential due to one major limitation: apps.
The Android OS is swimming in apps, but Chromebooks have relatively few. The main idea of the Chromebook is that you do everything from one app: the Chrome web browser. And anything you run from Chrome, like the Microsoft Word Online web app, is essentially an app running within an app, which sometimes isn’t ideal.
For example, web app performance is reliant on your internet connection’s speed, which can be poor in public areas like an airport or cafe.
Some developers made apps specifically for Chrome OS, like Evernote, but many choose not to because it’s not worth the developer’s time and resources to reconfigure their apps to work on Chrome OS.
Chromebooks simply aren’t that popular, they’re very niche, and developers would rather focus on maintaining and improving apps on popular platforms, like Android, which is running on over a billion devices.
Running everything from a web browser is also seriously limiting if you’re out of reach of an internet connection. For example, you couldn’t use the Microsoft Word Online web app if you’re offline, but you could if there was an app, like Microsoft Word.
Of course, you can use Google’s productivity suite offline, but you can bet that many more people prefer to use Word over Google Docs. So that’s a huge percentage of people who are alienated from Chromebooks already.
But an inexpensive Google laptop/tablet hybrid that can run Android apps modified to work with a keyboard and mouse, as well as touch, could be the answer to Microsoft’s relatively expensive Surface Pro and Surface Book devices, as well as Apple’s soon-to-launch iPad Pro.
Making those Android apps work — and work well — on a full-sized computer is a whole different story.
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