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article imageGoogle could be planning to kill Chromebooks and ChromeOS

By James Walker     Oct 30, 2015 in Technology
Google is planning to join its ChromeOS cloud-based operating system with Android, according to a new report. The company is restructuring so all its operating systems are based on Android but has denied it has plans to kill off ChromeOS.
The Wall Street Journal reports ChromeOS will be folded into Android by 2017. WSJ's anonymous insider sources said a first version of the new, all-encompassing Android will be shown off next year.
Such a combination would almost certainly spell the end of Chromebooks as they are known today. Google's vision of a low-cost, ultra-portable laptop family built around web apps hasn't developed into a system that works for most people. The low-power processors and small amounts of on-board storage make users totally dependent on the cloud but the lack of complexity in most web apps mean they have failed to catch on. The recent resurgence of cheap but high-quality Windows laptops and tablets has flooded the market with fully-featured alternatives more likely to suit most people.
The death of ChromeOS would represent an admission from Google that we simply aren't ready for a cloud-first operating system yet. Android is a very different and much more traditional OS, based around the concept of installing apps locally for offline access. It also has millions of apps available in the Google Play Store, giving future Google laptops and tablets a much broader range of software to enjoy. At the same time, developers would be able to write for more platforms at once without having to develop apps specially for ChromeOS.
The Chromebook name will be dropped should the two platforms converge as planned, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Chrome web browser will retain its branding, becoming more unique and self-contained in the process as its derivatives join Android.
The unification has been expected for some time and indications of the plans have started to present themselves recently. Google executives have previously acknowledged that ChromeOS and Android are likely to converge on each other and in September the company unveiled the Pixel C convertible laptop, a large-screen device designed to rival Microsoft's Surface and other similar products. The Pixel C runs Android instead of ChromeOS, suggesting the company has a vision for what premium devices will be running going forward.
Google has not officially commented on the claims but Hiroshi Lockheimer, senior vice president of Android and ChromeOS, tweeted "There's a ton of momentum for Chromebooks and we are very committed to Chrome OS" this morning. It doesn't really clarify whether there are any efforts to merge the platform with Android but suggests Google will remain supportive of its ChromeOS devices and still considers the Chromebook concept a worthy product family.
In another scenario, a person "familiar with the matter" told Business Insider that Google may maintain support for ChromeOS alongside Android but could also launch a "best of both" third system. The source said: "There is a scenario in which we move forward and the likelihood is there is still Chrome OS and Android and there could be a third project that combines the best of both."
It's unclear why Google would want to support three different operating systems. Key rival Microsoft is working to make Windows 10 the centrepiece of all its hardware and convergence seems to be the better option for Google too.
Recode corroborated the Wall Street Journal's report and points out that the company began to link Android and ChromeOS two years ago when Sundar Pichai — now Google CEO — became senior vice president of both systems. Making them separate again and adding a third piece to the puzzle seems counterintuitive today so what the "third project" would entail remains unknown.
All the reports concur in saying any Google projects involving the rethinking of its operating systems are still in the early stages. We may not learn anything official for some time to come with launches and announcements potentially over a year away.
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