Does Chrome OS still make sense?

I’ve been following the development of Google’s Chrome OS for a while now, and have played around with some of the early builds that have been floating around online. It’s well on its way to becoming a stable and usable operating system, but I’ve been getting the feeling recently that it may have been been surpassed by that other Google OS, Android. Especially since Android comes with a very good browser.

All about the browser

Chrome OS will be a browser-only OS. It will boot into Chrome and the idea is that you use online applications only. It’ll have no way to install other apps, and only very limited local storage capabilities. Aimed at netbooks and tablets, it doesn’t aim to replace your primary computer’s OS, but to offer a hassle-free way of sending out a quick email or looking up something online. This still makes all the sense in the world to me, but why not do it with Android?

Android is more versatile

Android offers the same ease of use, is just as hassle-free, and offers the Android market. Unlike Chrome OS, you can run apps on it. When I first heard that Apple’s iPad would be running iPhone OS, I thought that was a stroke of brilliance. You don’t want a full-fledged desktop OS on a secundary computer. It should boot quickly and not bother you with updates and maintenance. Just imagine booting up your HP tablet at night to check your Twitter and having it do ten minutes of Windows 7 and virus definition updates. Apple has proven that iPhone OS is exactly right for the job, and Android is simply just like it.

Android comes with a browser that like Chrome is WebKit-based. It’s fast and works really well. It can do anything you’d be able to do in Chrome OS. Both of Google’s efforts are Linux-based, and both target mobile processors (ARM, Atom). They’re more alike than you might think, except that Chrome OS isn’t done yet and has far less functionality, whereas Android is stable and in the hands of millions of customers already. Literally.

Should Google abandone Chrome OS?

If I were Google, I’d probably merge the two teams, and ask them to work on Android, with more emphasis on netbooks and tablets as a target platform. I wouldn’t be surprised if Google did this, and would choose to kill Chrome OS. Android could become more cloud oriented in future versions and incorporate much of what is Chrome OS’s philosophy.


  1. There’s no mouse support in android :p

    But you are kind of right I think. In particular one field where Android is used as a primary “OS” os already the eBook readers. In particular see the enTourage Edge.

    I can’t imagine what a mouse cursor would look like on an android though… a finger? hehe

    Comment by drozzy — April 25, 2010 @ 2:55 pm

  2. Well, Chrome and Android are two separate things, with separate target audiences. Chrome is more for all purpose machines, that could be a netbook, a laptop, a desktop. Anywhere where you have massive bandwith. While Android is only for mobile devices, that are small. Android has some very nasty flaws in the way that they messed up the Linux kernel. Meaning that pretty much all devices that you attach to a android device (usb keyboard, mouses, or other storage devices) won’t just work like in any linux box. They purposefully removed these things (*shaking head*)

    Now Android might be a great idea on your phone, but won’t fly on your laptop. It will be a major headache, it just won’t scale.
    So in my opionion, Google should keep them separate, as different ideas are behind them: Android = offer a iPhone/Windows Mobile/Symbian alternative.
    Chrome=Offer a Windows alternative that can use all the google apps.

    Comment by nigratruo — May 12, 2010 @ 2:01 am

    • Nigratruo, you may be right about the reason to keep them separate, but I don’t think Google wants us to know yet if indeed it is true. If they are going to position Chrome OS as a Windows alternative for the desktop (which they currently aren’t), that might be a good reason to not integrate the two.

      But currently, Android tablets and netbooks are being announced left and right, invading what Google has been describing as Chrome OS’s territory.

      Comment by Roy — May 12, 2010 @ 7:52 am

  3. I looked at the iPad and didn’t like its screen.

    now I have a Vaio X1 which weighs 1oz more than the iPad, runs Windows 7 on a SSD, and boots in 21 seconds.

    Good enough for me. And I get to run any app I like.

    Comment by tim — May 22, 2010 @ 12:46 am

  4. Have you seen the reviews of the Andoird netbooks…? 🙂

    Operating systems designed for a particular purpose are naturally going to perform best at that purpose (well, assuming a good job on the design was done, :p)

    It’s a worthwhile question to ask, but I think with a little look into it it becomes fairly clear that Android, an OS specifically designed for small mobile devices, is not going to be ideal for Desktops… The case is less strong against Netbooks, but the push to Web apps and that focus of Chrome OS I think makes it a clearly different OS than android, given what it’s been designed for is what people actually use computers for mostly…

    Comment by Ben Vail — June 2, 2010 @ 3:44 pm

    • As far As I know, the browser in Android scales well to higher resolutions and performs okay on netbooks. Even if nothing else would work well on a larger screen, that puts Android roughly on par with Chrome OS (which is nothing but a browser). And with ARM-based smartbooks, Android will feel more at home.

      Comment by Roy — June 4, 2010 @ 12:31 pm

  5. i think chrome os still good on its own purpose, and i think it’s good for netbook. For android its whole other thing and been use on smartphone

    Comment by akuvision — June 12, 2010 @ 3:28 pm

  6. i agree with you akuvision. For netbooks is perfect but for android…i’d rather not say it (if you know what i mean)

    Comment by Alex — July 13, 2010 @ 1:02 am

  7. Co-founder Sergey Brin suggested that the two systems “will likely converge over time”. From wikipedia.

    Comment by bob — July 19, 2010 @ 6:57 pm

  8. Chrome OS never made any sense except from googles viewpoint to monopolize the micro OS market, but they simply just wont.
    TiniyCore linux and other mini linuxes are around for a while.
    TinyCore can run entirely in memory from an usbdrive or disk or anything, but unlike a livecd, you can actually install new program, and choose to install them to disk or to memory just once, or everytime.
    This is awesome because everytime you boot you have a ceartinly clear environment, yet you can open google chrome or firefox or anything and so on.

    Comment by newszi — July 21, 2010 @ 1:06 pm

  9. There are tablets on the market running Android, which you can install your own apps. Why google not imrove the os for netbooks or have another version ecpecially for them. Net-surffing is not the only reason people are interested in netbooks, but a little media file here and there to KIIIIIIIIILLLLLLLLLLLL boredom.

    Comment by Ray_Keswa — August 5, 2010 @ 10:03 am

  10. Link: thechromesource Daily: Links for 8/12/10 | thechromesource - Google Chrome and Chrome OS News and Resources
  11. I agree completely.

    The Android platform already fulfills the Chrome OS philosophy and performs well on existing hardware. With Android’s quickly gaining market penetration against IOS, there isn’t much room or need left for Chrome OS. It simply divides their resources.

    Even still, there are already some “chromebooks” popping up. So ultimately the consumers will decide. As for me, I’ve just ordered my third Android device.

    Comment by Jesse — September 8, 2011 @ 4:19 am

    • I have to say that since I posted this, the business case for Chrome OS has gotten a lot clearer. Chromebooks seem a viable extension of Google’s Apps strategy. And now that there’s a Citrix receiver, lots of companies could potentially stop using Windows on their end user systems, even if the server uses Windows. It seems that keyboard-centric, corporate devices are better off with Chrome OS, while Android is best for mobile.

      Comment by Roy — September 8, 2011 @ 10:28 am