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Schmidt: One Google OS to Rule Them All Not Happening Soon

Schmidt: One Google OS to Rule Them All Not Happening Soon

Recent leadership shuffles regarding the people in charge of the Android and Chrome operating systems don't mean that an OS merger is on the horizon, according to Google's Eric Schmidt, who was asked about the subject this week during an overseas trip. The company could be waiting for Chrome to gather more momentum, but with desktops and mobile devices sharing more, Google may have to make a decision sooner rather than later.

By Richard Adhikari
03/21/13 2:23 PM PT

Google will keep its Chrome and Android operating systems separate, but company executive chairman Eric Schmidt reportedly said this week the two will have more features in common.

Schmidt's comments at a conference in India came a week after Google reassigned Android head honcho Andy Rubin and gave his duties to Chrome OS boss Sundar Pichai. That sparked speculation that Google is trying to set the stage for an eventual merger of the two operating systems.

However, "Google will pit Android against iOS and Windows Phone, while it will use Chrome as a thin client OS to compete with Mac OS X and Windows 8," Carl Howe, a vice president of research at the Yankee Group, told TechNewsWorld.

"We should remember that Apple also put both Mac OS X and iOS under a single executive, Craig Federighi, to ensure consistent experiences," Howe added. "I believe that Google is pursuing the same goal by placing both Android and Chrome under Sundar Pichai."

Google did not respond to our request to comment for this story.

Google OS Merger Mania

This isn't the first time that rumors about Google merging its Android and Chrome operating system have made the rounds. Back in 2011, Schmidt made remarks in his keynote speech at the Mobile World Congress, and during a Q&A session later, that many interpreted as pointing to such a move.

During his speech, it was reported that Schmidt said the company would have to wait until the technology was mature enough before unifying the systems. When asked later if Android might be ported over to desktops because of its success, he said, "Yes, it's called Chrome OS."

The rumors were fueled again when a French programmer announced in early February that the Notification Center in the latest Windows chromium build included rich templated notifications.

Chromium, which forms the basis for Google Chrome, is an open source project that consists of a large part of Chrome's source code. Although the Chrome browser is separate from the Chrome OS, the move gave rise to speculation that Android's Google Now feature would eventually be included in Chrome.

Why Bet on an Android-Chrome Marriage?

"Our take is that it's going to be difficult for Google, as for any software company, to maintain separate development efforts," Jeff Orr, a senior practice director at ABI Research, told TechNewsWorld. "We think the overall objectives for the Android and Chrome operating systems will align more and more over the coming years."

However, there's no benefit from an operating system strategy standpoint to have different implementations of the system, Orr pointed out. That's because the Chrome OS "hasn't gained any critical mass or audience types that benefit from a browser-based or Web-based operating system environment."

On the other hand, "the narrow value proposition of the Chrome OS as a standalone product is primarily for locked-down environments, whether it be for security, simplicity or both," said Al Hilwa, a research program director at IDC.

"This is a much narrower scenario than Android, but perhaps Google is betting that this will explode into being a bigger deal," he told TechNewsWorld.

Touch will come to all devices, so differentiating two OSes on touch will increasingly not be a viable business strategy, Hilwa added, and the differences between clamshell and tablet form factors will increasingly become irrelevant. "I don't think it makes sense to keep [Chrome OS and Android] apart."

Merging the two OSes, he said, will "provide the best of the Web to Android users and reduce OEM and ecosystem confusion."


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