So Where Is Android In This Vision?
Android fits the model of native OS and native apps all needing to be downloaded and installed. Android also is more focused on mobile devices, not traditional PC form factors. However, in this vision I can imagine Chrome phones and Chrome tablets as an alternative to Android phones and Android tablets.
Part of the reason I bring up the longer-term vision for Chrome is because recently Android has come under quite a bit of legal scrutiny. Google is being sued quite heavily over patent violation claims against Android. Many people are watching this very closely because if Google loses these patent lawsuits, Android’s future comes into question. However, in the vision I am laying out, Android may be a shorter-term play for Google, which means even if they lose and Android loses partners, it doesn’t signal the nail in the coffin for Google.
One other point I’ll make on Android is that it’s not going away in the short term—if ever. There’s too much momentum in hardware, software and services that even if additional licensing costs become associated with Android, the vendors will still pay the costs to license Android. My main point is that in this browser-based computing future, Chrome OS presents the longer-term opportunity for Google and their hardware partners.
What interests me about Google’s Chrome browser and its evolution to Chrome OS as its used on things like Chromebooks is how the browser itself was built in a way to take advantage of all of the computer’s hardware. Specifically the browser can take advantage of things that normally only the operating system does, like the GPU and ports like the microphone, media card readers and USB ports.
It is because Chrome is architected this way that I can see it replacing a traditional OS in the future if all of our software moves to the web.
To use a Wayne Gretzky quote and slightly modify it: Android is where the puck is today. Chrome OS is where the puck is going.
Now to be honest, although I believe we are moving in this direction, I am not sure when this vision will become a reality. Many different pieces need to come together, including devices with persistent, reliable and affordable connections to the Internet.
Some times technology moves at the speed of light, and other times it moves very slowly. This is an area where I think it will move slowly, putting us at least five years away and most likely much longer.
Ben Bajarin is the Director of Consumer Technology Analysis and Research at Creative Strategies, Inc, a technology industry analysis and market intelligence firm located in Silicon Valley.