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Android, Chrome OS Relationship Confusing Everyone, Including Google

Illustration for article titled Android, Chrome OS Relationship Confusing Everyone, Including Google

Just as companies were starting to get serious about installing Android, a mobile Linux OS, on netbooks, Google announces Chrome, a Linux OS. The relationship between the two OSes is already getting tense, or at the very least, awkward.

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Google CEO Eric Schmidt is now admitting that it took him quite a while to warm to the idea of Chrome the browser, even longer to come to terms with the possibility of Chrome the OS, and in both cases only after Larry Page Sergey Brin literally nerded him into submission:

I just gave up, but there is no question I am hugely supportive of Chrome and Chrome OS. They are game-changers. They change the way you think about your computer.

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Meanwhile, Android's perceived role in the world was expanding. After all this soul-searching, though, Schmidt must have a clear vision of parallel, non-conflicting roles for Android and Chrome OS, right?:

Although it appears they are two separate projects, there's a great deal of commonality. Eventually they may merge even closer."

This is somewhere between "oops!" and "I have no idea."

But hold on! There could be a third way! Digitimes is reporting that Intel is in talks with Google to help adapt Android for use in MIDs, the so-far ill-fated bridge devices between netbooks and smartphones. Technologically, this seems like a reasonable secondary use for Android. Commercially, though, MIDs are something of a ghetto; a category broached by few manufacturers, and unfamiliar (or unattractive) to most customers.

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The most obvious conclusion to all this is for Android (and Android enthusiasts) to narrow ambitions and focus on what we know it's good at: cellphones, and possibly portable media players. This is something that will probably happen organically, but only after a few more news cycles worth of bewildering quotes and announcements from Google, which we will gleefully document. [WSJ, Digitimes]

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DISCUSSION

The difference seems pretty obvious to me. Android is built from the ground up to be all about apps, and Chrome OS is built from the ground up to be all about the web.

Even if Android can technically be installed on a netbook, it doesn't really make any sense. It isn't tailored for that experience AT ALL.

Just like Chrome OS would probably be terrible if you plopped it onto a touchscreen phone.

To me this is the exact same thing as Microsoft offering both Windows 7 and Windows Mobile. They're designed from the ground up for different platforms and different experiences, and whenever somebody tries to install one of them on the other's form factor it ends up being garbage.

The only real news here is that Google is joining the push alongside Moblin to actually attempt to define netbooks as a new platform and not just another kind of laptop.