Google’s Android, the most widely used operating system in the world, is going to be getting some more firepower. Into 2017 Google plans to roll key elements and features of its Chrome OS into the system, creating one platform for app developers and hardware makers to focus on building products.
Google’s aim is clearly to get Android running on as many devices as possible, it is already powering phones, tablets, watches, TVs, and car infotainment systems. Chromebooks, their relatively cheaper personal computers powered by the Chrome OS, account for less than 3% of personal computers. So making this shift isn’t a seismic change that affects too many current users of the hardware, and it provides a new vertical for Android to grow into.
App development for Chrome OS was always lacking, as Google’s team didn’t dedicate resources in recent years to keep pushing the project forward. Only recently did they open Chrome OS up to supporting ported Android apps. 3rd party app developers didn’t have a lot of incentive to develop for Chrome OS with such a small market-share, and instead dedicated their time to Android.
Bringing the Google Play store to PCs opens an entirely new market for developers. A signal eco-system will allow developers to write an app once and know it can deployed across all devices without incurring significant development overhead and rewriting.
The move also could help Google and independent developers further break into the business world. One of the biggest successes of Apple’s iOS is the litany of workplace, financial, and productivity apps available for the iPad and Mac OS-powered Macbook. Many of these same type of apps exist for Android, and with cross-compatibility from a tablet to a laptop to a phone on the go, this could incentivize small businesses to make a more cost-friendly choice in hardware.
As with everything, Google especially, time will tell. But for now, rejoice that the confusing moniker of having a browser and an operating system both named “Chrome,” long confusing public school teachers whose classrooms received Chromebooks as part of grants, is going the way of the dodo. The expected launch date for the first of these new Android powered PCs will be sometime in 2017, though preview builds are rumored to be coming as early as Q1 in 2016.