Android OS vs. Chrome OS


Google’s IO keynote is over. One day was dedicated to Chrome OS, another to Android OS — one day for each of Googles operating systems. Here’s what thay said about the next Android OS, Ice Cream Sandwich:

Our goal with Ice Cream Sandwich is to deliver one operating system that works everywhere, regardless of device. Ice Cream Sandwich will bring everything you love about Honeycomb on your tablet to your phone, including the holographic user interface, more multitasking, the new launcher and richer widgets.

So naturally, people are asking: if the goal is one OS for all devices, why does Chrome OS exist?

Which is a good question. But it’s not the right one. Without spending too much time diving into the semantics of Googles wordplay, what Google meant to say was “one Android OS for all Android devices”; I doubt Google will adobt a Microsoftian “Ice Cream Sandwiches Everywhere” motto.

The right question is: who’s Chrome OS for? Which I’d like to try and answer here.

For your long-distance phone salesman

Chrome is a whittled-down, fast, web-browser. It’s really easy to use, and when you get Chrome in a Chromebook it’s just the browser and nothing else. It updates itself without asking your permission, so it’s pretty secure through its own doing.

Ever been called up about savings on your long-distance? Did a Best Buy employee ever tell your parents they needed a top-of-the-line PC for emails, documents and uploading photos? Did you ever try and explain to your neighbor why she should really upgrade her IE6 browser, even if it’s only for Facebook?

Each of these use-cases could involve a Chromebook. The Sprint long-distance call-center could probably save a buck on ditching Windows XP, since their call-system is web-based anyway. Your parents could probably do with a Chromebook for what they do, and you’d be saved hours of uninstalling smiley-apps when you visit them come Thanksgiving. And your Facebook-crazy neighbor would love her Chromebook so much she’d call it her Facebook.

No, Chrome OS is not for you. You need the gaming or content creation oomph that’s not yet ready to be done on the web. Yeah, with WebGL, you can do some pretty cool things in the browser, but I won’t argue that any one of you content creators still need a truck for your work. But if all you do is Facebook and email, a Chromebook is perfect for you. It’s got a full-size keyboard, and arguably the best browser in the world. Sure, there’s a good argument that for Facebook and email, an iPad might be an even better choice than a Chromebook.

For your mom

The killer use-case for the Chromebook is any place that uses web-apps only yet would benefit from transparent, automatic security. There’s a plethora of places that buy bulky PCs and proceed to run Windows XP and Internet Explorer 6 only to book appointments in a web-based system. Think cubicle-laden warehouses full of people with headsets staring at blue E’s all day long and a sysadmin that lacks sleep because he has to update the computers constantly and make sure the firewall and antivirus is running. This sysadmin is dying to get a Chromebook. And so is your mom.

For the man behind the curtain

Googles sneaky little goal with Android appears to be taking on every OS out there. Android will soon run on PCs, and it’ll certainly get both Chrome and Chrome web-apps. Google’s going to push Android wherever it can, and if Google gets its way, many people will soon both play their games and create their content on Androids. Yet, Google thinks there’s a market for ripping Chrome out of the operating system and putting it on its own little cheap device. Just the browser and the web-apps of the future. Android is where the white rabbit will take you, but Chrome OS is for the man behind the curtain.

3 thoughts on “Android OS vs. Chrome OS”

  1. The Cloud concept is wonderful, and makes perfect sense – especially for those you cited; like Mom. But, here in the U.S., we still have imperfect networks for its delivery. For the Cloud to become commonplace, we need 100% coverage geographically; and 100% uptime 24/7. That’s a long, long way off. Most of the Wi-Fi available outside your house, either cost something, or it’s not that great – still G-Standard, and blinks on and off with load.
    I admire Google being leaders in this; but it couldn’t possibly catch-on anywhere but the most densely populated cities – which doesn’t represent but an extremely small percentage of our population. It will be years for them to realize potential.
    Now, I understand you guys in Europe, have widely available city-wide free wi-fi. I believe we’ll see Europeans make full use of the Cloud years ahead of most Americans.

    1. Joen says:

      For the Cloud to become commonplace, we need 100% coverage geographically; and 100% uptime 24/7. That’s a long, long way off.

      Well first of all, the problem you’re referring to is outside of your home or workplace where there should be WiFi. Sure, a Chromebook on 3G is less useless there.

      But you forget offline apps. Gmail, Docs and Calendar are all about to be released in new versions that support HTML5 offline storage. Lots of other apps support it already.

      Your Chromebook when away from WiFi will be about as useful as an iPad. That is, still pretty useful.

      Now, I understand you guys in Europe, have widely available city-wide free wi-fi. I believe we’ll see Europeans make full use of the Cloud years ahead of most Americans.

      Our carrier situation is better in a lot of situations — there’s better 3G coverage in more places, certainly, and we rarely drop calls. But whatever ubiquitous wifi rumour you’ve heard of is false I’m afraid, at least from my experience with Denmark.

  2. I dont think there is any wrong with having two operating systems. Google keeps on updating its OS very often. As such, it wont be questionable to have one OS for desktop and other for mobile. Chrome OS would be better customized for better development for Android

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