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Report: Google To Fold Chrome OS Into Android (wsj.com) 104

An anonymous reader writes: According to a report at the Wall Street Journal (paywalled) Google plans to merge its Chrome operating system into Android. Google engineers have already been working on this transition for two years; the company expects to have a functioning preview next year, and a finished product in 2017. "The move is also an attempt by Google to get Android running on as many devices as possible to reach as many people as possible. The operating system runs phones, tablets, watches, TVs and car infotainment systems. Adding laptops could increase Android's user base considerably. That should help Google woo more outside developers who want to write apps once and have them work on as many gadgets as possible, with little modification." This doesn't mean Chrome OS is on its way out. According to public statements from Google execs, it will continue to exist and see active development.
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Report: Google To Fold Chrome OS Into Android

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  • by water-and-sewer ( 612923 ) on Friday October 30, 2015 @09:06AM (#50831625) Homepage

    This is going to affect me and I'm not sure yet what I think about it. I use both Android and ChomeOS. I bought the Chromebook expecting to wipe it and put Linux on it, but found instead that it was a decent little laptop with spectacular battery life and a simple interface. Basically the chrome browser plus a keyboard, and I find myself putting down the Android tablet and reaching for it whenever I have some serious typing to do (like a Slashdot post for example). It's got a terminal extension that allows me to SSH into remote boxes and that plus the browser cover 85% of my use cases (no good Usenet client is its biggest shortcoming for me). Wish it had more apps, but for the things I use a computer/keyboard for, it's basically good enough.

    In my pocket the Android phone (Samsung Note 3) is my daily workhorse. Love it, but it's not as simple as ChromeOS, no doubt about it.

    I think we all knew this day was coming. ChromeOS needs a better app ecosystem and Android will provide it. And Android will be good on a laptop with a keyboard. But I'm somewhat leery about this. Just wish they'd provided a couple more things with ChromeOS.

    Guess we'll find out soon enough. Point is: I expected not to like ChromeOS and found out I liked it quite a bit: terminal client, easy networking, dead simple peripheral configuration, file manager, and a great browser: these days I don't need a hell of a lot more than that in a secondary machine (meaning, I do my graphics, scanning, etc. on the desktop).

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You're an idiot for using ChromeOS and you should feel bad. There are plenty of better platforms that aren't basically just data ingestion platforms for an ad network.

      Long live Android.

    • It will definitely be interesting to see the state of PCs in five years, with Google pushing Android everywhere now. Android has enough of a software library to be usable for a lot of people, even a decent selection of games; lacking the Wintel tax, dirt cheap boxes could finally fulfill the Chromebook's goal of stealing the low-end home PC market from Microsoft.

      The business market isn't quite as sewn up by Microsoft as it used to be, with the BYOD and cloud movements pushing a lot of applications off the d

      • by Half-pint HAL ( 718102 ) on Friday October 30, 2015 @09:44AM (#50831821)
        The app ecosystem's the thing, and while many can survive with Google Docs, some of us need offline tools. If this spurs a proper overhaul of LibreOffice or Apache OpenOffice to a lightweight, Android-friendly version, we could be on the cusp of something very interesting indeed.
        • Or, you know, Office [office.com]

          I'm all for alternatives, but Office compatibility tends to make or break computing devices.

          • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Friday October 30, 2015 @10:29AM (#50832215) Homepage

            Only for luddites.

            MANY fast moving companies do not use Office at all. I know of several that use all chromebooks for the employees and Google's offerings for a productivity suite. they save a crapload as they no longer have to maintain user IT hardware. you broke a chromebook? here's a new one, you are back to 100% productivity in 10 minutes. Don't need a portable? here s a chromebox on your desk, the receptionist uses the web interface software on the backroom servers. 99% of all CRM software is webserver based anyways, so it's a no brainer. and yes you can do docs and spreadsheets offline on a chromebook. plus the chromebooks have hard drives in them so they also have their google drive documents local.

            Honestly only the crusty old companies still rely on Microsoft Office.

          • Or, you know, Office [office.com]

            I'm all for alternatives, but Office compatibility tends to make or break computing devices.

            Except that MS Office for Android isn't feature-complete. If LO/OO can reengineer the full suite to trim out the fat and make them fully tablet friendly, there would be something there.

            • MS office is only really feature complete on the Windows desktop client. Even the mac version is missing features (though you gotta be a hardcore word/excel user to miss those features.)

              • by Anonymous Coward

                > MS office is only really feature complete on the Windows desktop client.

                Not even there, since that ribbon debacle.

                As a long time Office user -- and involuntary, since I work at a MS-only shop -- I often fail to find those functions I know exactly because I'm used to advanced features since long ago (Word 97 and earlier).

                When I try to find them, my coworkers simply instate me to quit looking and say I lose too much time... they use Word just like they use Notepad, and it's ok with them.

                We also have comp

        • I don't know if you're aware of this but Libreoffice are already working on a version for Android. I think so far it only supports document viewing but editing is definitely on the cards.
        • Are you referring to being able to use Google Docs while offline. Because you can do that.
      • It is bad engineering to try and make a one-size-fits-all-devices OS. There is no overlap between a smartphone with a 3" touchscreen and a 3 monitor SLI desktop gaming computer, or a high-end graphics workstation. There is no benefit to the consumer to mash it all into one OS. It may be easier for the company to manage one OS with updates, but that may not even pan out over time. We will see if this is the way of the future. It will leave a giant gap for hundreds of millions of existing desktop computers th

        • t is bad engineering to try and make a one-size-fits-all-devices OS. There is no overlap between a smartphone with a 3" touchscreen and a 3 monitor SLI desktop gaming computer, or a high-end graphics workstation. There is no benefit to the consumer to mash it all into one OS.

          Which is exactly why there is OS X and iOS.

      • If this works it may be a death knell for AMD. They have no presence in the high-end now, so if ARM gobbles up the low-end then they lose their major market. We might not have AMD processors in 5 years.
    • by Idou ( 572394 ) on Friday October 30, 2015 @09:52AM (#50831893) Journal
      Hey, with crouton [github.com], you can literally have the best of both worlds at the same time! (no wiping required!)

      Also, it is probably too soon to assume there will be much, if any, negative impact on end users. Seems likely you will be able to continue your current habits with the added bonus of having all (not just a small subset of) android apps potentially available on your Chrome book.
    • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Friday October 30, 2015 @10:24AM (#50832155) Homepage

      It's not clear to me that this needs to create a big practical difference for you. I guess I don't really know what's been going on with ChromeOS lately, but my understanding is that both Android and ChromeOS are basically Linux, so merging the system codebase itself doesn't need to make a big difference for users. They could even potentially use the same display system across both platforms while customizing the UI to fit each. ChromeOS could still be, essentially, a simplified Linux distro where the UI is mostly just just Chrome browser.

      On the other hand, it would possibly make it easier for Google to update/maintain both systems if they shared a codebase. It would also possibly make it easier for Android developers to create desktop versions of their phone apps, in cases where that made sense.

      So all in all, it seems like this is probably a good thing. Not that they couldn't screw it up.

    • What is the advantage of a Chromebook over, say, a tablet with a keyboard? I'm curious, as it sounds like the latter would cover your use case there... I don't use either so I don't know.

      • by itsenrique ( 846636 ) on Friday October 30, 2015 @12:30PM (#50833287)
        ChromeOS is very fast right now because it is so lightweight. So the advantage is that you can get reasonable speeds out of cheaper hardware. At least that's one advantage.
        • ChromeOS is very fast right now because it is so lightweight.

          the OS itself may be light weight, but the applications is has to support are not. you need a decent processor and memory to have a good experience with chrome, and chromebooks (almost) all have low-end specs.

          my experience with a chromebook was that it started barfing when i had >10 tabs open, and was slow on any complex web site. web apps are not something i can easily tolerate when they are slow.

      • What is the advantage of a Chromebook over, say, a tablet with a keyboard? I'm curious, as it sounds like the latter would cover your use case there... I don't use either so I don't know.

        Chromebook is locked down and far more secure that Android. Want to do online banking, a chromebook would be a far better idea than a tablet or a PC.

        • Chromebook is locked down and far more secure that Android. Want to do online banking, a chromebook would be a far better idea than a tablet or a PC.

          yeah, there's never been an exploit in a browser. oh wait a sec ...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by BillTheKatt ( 537517 )
      I agree 100%. I tried ChromeOS expecting to hate it. I mean come on, an "OS" that was nothing but a browser? But it is actually a very simple, decent OS. Fantastic for Grandma or anyone else that needs just something simple. It's totally fast, and does all the basics you could need it to. Office? No, not happening, unless you want a "browser" version of it. But I was surprised how much I liked it.
    • I expect the default install of Android on a Chromebook will look pretty much like a Chromebook does now. You'll have the option of installing Android apps but you won't have to take it. I also hope they will make the more fully capable version of Chrome from the Chromebook available for other Android devices; it might make sense on large screen tablets.
  • let's see other people
  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday October 30, 2015 @09:13AM (#50831667) Homepage Journal

    Report: Google to Fold Chrome OS Into Android

    Bull. Shit. That is not what the article says. It says they're going to offer Android-based laptops alongside the ChromeOS ones. Of course, such things already exist. I have in front of my an Asus Transformer Prime TF201 running KatKiss v28. It's got a touchpad, it's got multiwindow...

    • by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Friday October 30, 2015 @09:39AM (#50831801) Homepage Journal

      That makes little sense though. That'd mean two competing, incompatible, lines of laptops. And folding ChromeOS into Android should be relatively easy, given the common kernel - it's already been done with Ubuntu and Android, and I believe Motorola shipped a phone at one point with some GNU/Linux distribution running with Android, where Android was the core UI on the phone, but plugging it into a laptop cradle gave you a proper GNOME-ish desktop with your apps available in both places.

      I wonder what's really going on? Quite simply: I don't believe the article if it's implying two lines of laptop, but I don't know what's going on at Google and while I can make intelligent guesses as to the future of Android and ChromeOS, I can't say for definite what direction they'd want to take both operating systems in.

      • That makes little sense though. That'd mean two competing, incompatible, lines of laptops.

        Microsoft had two competing, incompatible product lines going at once, why can't Google? The only reason ChromeOS existed to begin with is that Android wasn't good enough to be a host for the full version of Chrome. Now that mobile Chrome is reaching feature-parity with desktop Chrome, there's no reason to maintain both, so you're right; it doesn't make sense... unless you consider where we are now, and how we got here. This isn't like some google webapp they can abandon because nobody paid for it. People p

        • Microsoft had two competing, incompatible product lines going at once

          I'm sorry, but I'm having difficulty remembering any time in Microsoft's history when that happened. They've had multiple operating systems, but I don't recall any time when they tried to sell them to the same market. Even back when NT was under development and theoretically available to desktop users, they were careful to avoid it being packaged at the same markets as 95/98/Me, and eventually had to merge. You didn't go into a store and

          • I'm sorry, but I'm having difficulty remembering any time in Microsoft's history when that happened. They've had multiple operating systems, but I don't recall any time when they tried to sell them to the same market.

            Windows and Windows CE, then Windows and Windows RT and Windows Phone. All consumer operating systems, none of them run one another's software (though there is some .NET overlap, it was never dominant in Windows CE-land — native apps ruled.)

            ChromeOS isn't some crud filled open operating system with several generations of APIs, where everyone from John Carmack to Alexander Kowalski has developed native binary applications. It's a locked down system designed to run Web Apps, and it even uses the same core browser as Android.

            It does not. "Desktop" (including ChromeOS) and mobile (Android) Chrome are very different beasts; they share much, but they are not the same thing. If they were, ChromeOS would never have existed.

            There is literally nothing whatsoever to stop Google from shipping Android in its place beyond deciding on how a desktop UI should work.

            There is, but you have to understand that mobile and normal Chrome a

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Did you read the same article as the rest of us?

      "Google engineers have been working for roughly two years to combine the operating systems and have made progress recently, two of the people said. The company plans to unveil its new, single operating system in 2017, but expects to show off an early version next year, one of the people said."

      That's definitely what the article says. Whether it's right or not is another matter, but that's what it says. It also definitely does not say that Google are going to co

    • Re:Now hold on thar (Score:5, Informative)

      by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Friday October 30, 2015 @09:52AM (#50831887) Journal

      I have [one] ... it's got multiwindow...

      There's something deeply alarming about the fact that you feel the need to tell us that your laptop has multiple windows in 2015. Not about you, about the fact that it's a thing worth saying at all!

      I mean XWindows version 11 (still in use and ABI backwards compatible with programs written then) is around 28 years old, and still going strong. Windows 2.0 (the first proper version as it had overlapping windows) is also 28 years old and its descendants are still going strong. The Amiga came out in 1985 he archimedes in 1987 (what is it with 1987??), Windows 3 in 1990 (I think this is a point when GUIs really started to take off due to the dominance of the PC platform, even if all the UNIX, Amiga, Acorn and Mac users sneered rightly in disgust), the Macintosh GUI in 1984, and the accessibly cheap Mac Classic in 1990.

      I mean Multi-window GUIs have been commonly available for quite a long time.

      It says something appaling about the state of computer development that it seems necessary to specify that a new laptop has multiple windows in 2015. I think this is why so many people in the computer industry are deeply suspicious of change. It's not that we hate change or improvement, we hate churn and even worse we hate when something perfectly good gets "deprecated" and the replacement mysteriously forgets all the lessons learned in the last 30 years and adds them back belatedly and half-arsed.

      I mean remember the copy/paste debacle (i.e. it flat out didn't exist) on mobile devices? How long did it take before it worked at all? Does they do anything more than plain text yet? Just for reference, the ICCCM, part of X11 was hammered out in 1987 and that contains a really rather reasonable, simple, easy to understand and extensible method for copy/paste of arbitrary and rich data.

      It's kinda like someone fell asleep in 1980, woke up in 2005 and remade a 1980s era computer with modern technology and the fanciest graphics available.

      Zawinski's cascade of attention deficit teenagers barely scratches the surface.

      • There's something deeply alarming about the fact that you feel the need to tell us that your laptop has multiple windows in 2015. Not about you, about the fact that it's a thing worth saying at all!

        Well, to be fair, it's arguably not very useful on a 1280x800 screen these days, especially not at 10". I can run two very primitive apps next to one another... It's only recently that Android devices commonly have enough pixels to actually warrant the feature. Now that it's relevant, it's becoming more common.

        • Well, to be fair, it's arguably not very useful on a 1280x800 screen these days, especially not at 10". I can run two very primitive apps next to one another... It's only recently that Android devices commonly have enough pixels to actually warrant the feature. Now that it's relevant, it's becoming more common.

          My first laptop [theregister.co.uk] had a 640x480 monochrome 9.5" screen. I was very productive running multiple windowed apps on it.

          Somehow, this guy named Jobs convinced a huge swath of the population that it was

          • My first laptop had a 640x480 monochrome 9.5" screen. I was very productive running multiple windowed apps on it.

            Yes yes, my first multitasking, multiwindowed system was an Amiga hooked up to a TV, don't talk to me about resolution. Except, that actually proves my point, because the Amiga actually had a whole concept of rapidly-switchable screens because it didn't have enough resolution to really make sensible use of multiple applications side-by-side at once, so you needed some way to rapidly switch between applications which used the entire display. The Macintosh of the era also was full-screen centric, for the same

        • Well, to be fair, it's arguably not very useful on a 1280x800 screen these days, especially not at 10".

          I'm currently writing this on my 800x480 9" eee laptop.

          I can run two very primitive apps next to one another... It's only recently that Android devices commonly have enough pixels to actually warrant the feature. Now that it's relevant, it's becoming more common.

          I ran much the same setup on a Zaurus SLC3100 at 640x480 on a tiny 4" screen. Granted, I mostly used fullscreen programs, but not always.

          In fact

      • I mean Multi-window GUIs have been commonly available for quite a long time.

        I like to invite you to install X11 plus your commonly used window manager with much heritage of choice on a 7" tablet. Please report back how you go with minimising, maximising, closing, resizing, or even alt-tabbing on a system with neither a pointing device nor a physical keyboard.

        If you think this is some problem we solved 20 years ago then you don't appreciate exactly how people can and can't interact with their OS on a tablet device.

        • I like to invite you to install X11 plus your commonly used window manager with much heritage of choice on a 7" tablet.

          I run Linux + X11 + Fvwm on my 9" laptop. Close enough? I also ran OpenBSD + X11 + FVWM happily and productively on my sharp Zaurus SLC3100 with its teeny (4"???) screen.

          Please report back how you go with minimising, maximising, closing, resizing, or even alt-tabbing on a system with neither a pointing device nor a physical keyboard.

          Well, I did have a physical keyboard but it worked fine on

          • My point is that you had a physical keyboard. Now take that keyboard away and give it to your sister.

            You're a nerd, I'm a nerd. It's amazing what we tolerate and play with. But the standard window based interface is an absolute hit-n-miss nightmare when doing the most basic window management tasks. I tried it. I gave up. I now tolerate it on a larger tablet with a pen as the precision pointing device. Though Windows 8 and Windows 10 have come a long way to making the functionality useful with the "sloppy" t

            • My point is that you had a physical keyboard. Now take that keyboard away and give it to your sister.

              If you're going to debate, please actually read my post, including the bit about using it with the keyboard folded away?

              Who said anything about single window?

              This whole subthread was about the inanity of "multiwindow" needing to be mentioned in 2015. If you're not talking about multiple/single windows then we're completely at cross purposes and I've literally no idea what you think we're discussing.

          • I run Linux + X11 + Fvwm on my 9" laptop. Close enough? I also ran OpenBSD + X11 + FVWM happily and productively on my sharp Zaurus SLC3100 with its teeny (4"???) screen.

            if it's so awesome, why isn't the whole world doing it?

            sorry, but if that was such a great and useful setup, we'd see more windowed mobile OSes. and no, "people just consume what apple force feeds them" isn't a great answer. apple will produce whatever people will consume, and i'm pretty sure the idea of a true windowed mobile OS has come up and been rejected.

            the real answer here is that almost no applications are useful when crammed into a tiny window. terminals are the exception, and there's little demand

            • if it's so awesome, why isn't the whole world doing it?

              Well done on moving the goalposts. Come back when you've got a consistent argument you can stick to.

      • Yep. It seems we're going backwards, and Windows 10 is not helping at all. Its UI is slowly being transformed into a franken mix of desktop and mobile UIs and that's likely to leave no one happy. I know I'm not since the new UI is worse for desktop usage.
        They're even going to replace the complex and information-heavy Control Panel with a touch optimized version. I can't imagine how many options they will have to remove or how many tens of pages of touch optimized buttons and textboxes they're gonna have to
    • by KGIII ( 973947 )

      You... You... You RTFA? Do you know what day it is? It's FRIDAY! *spits* There's only one thing worse than someone who reads the article and that's someone who does it on Friday. You take your facts, reason, and insight and pound it in your ass! This is screech like a howler monkey (and throw poop) day. Your UID number is low enough, you know the rules... I hope, for your sake, you're drunk!

      Pfft... Reading the article on a Friday... Why, I never... Hrmpf! What's this site coming to, anyhow? Are you aware th

  • Security (Score:4, Insightful)

    by puddingebola ( 2036796 ) on Friday October 30, 2015 @09:17AM (#50831691) Journal
    Isn't this one of those things where they make a product with an emphasis on security, and then as it gains some popularity, people want more features, more functionality, and so they start adding those features and functionality, and then they just start turning it more and more into Android, and then the security holes and malware problems with Android start to appear in Chrome OS, and then the advantages that Chrome OS had vanish? Isn't it one of those things? Is it really impossible to just have two different platforms with emphasis on different strengths? I think the marketing people are doing this. I blame them.
  • Who give a rat's ass about installed "user base".

    Which is not me.

    I'll have to stand by and see what this development entails. I love my "Breakfast Chromebook" which I use when going out to eat in the morning. My Android tablet? It's a toy. Melding the two, I sure hope it's a lot more Chrome, than Droid.

  • If Google did merge Chrome OS into Android, it would open the market place for someone to build a Chromebook Mark II. An Internet appliance computer is now an established computing genre. ...and I also think of Chrome:box/book/base/bit as Network Computers done right. Sun's John Gage was correct with his quote "The network is the computer"
  • I just wish Google would focus on first fixing all the massive amounts of bug in Android before trying to shovel more crap into Android.

  • Didn't Microsoft fold their app-running browser into their more widespread OS a while back?
    Wasn't there some issue with that? So foggy... I wonder how that will turn out...

    • Ah, but MS ended up looking like they were reducing functionality, and they were imposing an unfamiliar workflow on users. The ChromeAndroidOSBook wouldn't be looking to replace Windows, but ChromeOS, so you're not going to have office workers bitching about the ridiculous new save dialog in Word. More importantly, Android is in very common use, so the workflow is already familiar, unlike the barely-used Windows Phone UI that became "Metro". Microsoft's goal was to use ubiquitous desktop Windows to get peop
  • About time really (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DrXym ( 126579 )
    Google shouldn't have bothered with ChromeOS in the first place. It just confused everyone that they shipped two mutually incompatible operating systems that overlapped over the same problem space.
    • by invid ( 163714 )

      Google shouldn't have bothered with ChromeOS in the first place. It just confused everyone that they shipped two mutually incompatible operating systems that overlapped over the same problem space.

      Android wasn't ready to be run with a mouse and keyboard, so they didn't overlap over the same problem space. Look to Windows 8 to see how fubar an OS can be if it isn't really ready for both touch and mouse/keyboard.

      • by DrXym ( 126579 )
        The thing is, Android *does* run with a mouse and a keyboard and has done so for a very long time. Look at the likes of the ASUS transformer tablets which have been out for a long time. Lots of office apps exist on Android. I even recall plugging a mouse / keyboard into a MIPS set top box running Android some 6 or 7 years ago.

        That said, keyboard / mouse support has always been basic. Part of the reason for this is that the Google didn't push the support and therefore many apps don't do much with it. If Go

  • by invid ( 163714 ) on Friday October 30, 2015 @10:05AM (#50831989)

    I really hate the fact that the name of the dominant OS is "Android". This is going to be really confusing once we start building real androids.

    Bob: Hey Mary, what OS do you run on your android?

    Mary: Android.

    Bob: Yeah, on your android, what OS?

    Mary: Android!

    Bob: Yes! I'm talking about your android! What OS is running on it?

    Mary: Third base!

    • I really hate the fact that the name of the dominant OS is "Android". This is going to be really confusing once we start building real androids.

      I'm waiting for IoT FleshLight running the Android fork Gynodriod.

  • Chrome is already available for Android. As soon as the desktop extensions and apps are available for it, then that's pretty much all of ChromeOS right there. What the heck does it mean for ChromeOS to "fold" into Android?
    • Android's UI is OK for small screens, but inefficient for typical computer work (compare tabs in ChromeOS to tabs in Android).

      Android needs to gain a desktop UI mode, maybe in 7.0, and the devil is in all the details of making that coexist smoothly with the phone mode. The key bit here will be that you won't necessarily need a Chromebook - you'll be able to buy a Chromecast-like dongle to hook a KVM setup to and use your phone in Desktop Mode (unless you want to buy all-new wireless KVM peripherals). 2017

  • But there are no current plans to sunset it.
  • from wsj concerns me. the tech pubs getting bloated and lazy? google wanted potential stock buyers to get the first heads up? it's a republican thing?
  • So, is Android destined to be the new Linux?

  • There's a reason why I avoid Chrome OS (specifically, that it depends on the cloud), and my fear is that in merging it with Android, it may make Android unacceptable to me as well.

  • While Google has now denied the story, I think that they should try to merge to 2 OS's. Use ChromeOS as the base OS for the device (fast boot, secure, etc..) and have easy way to run any Android app (and phone stuff - e.g. voice calls to regular phone service) on top of that in a secure sandbox. On the phone, the ChromeOS UI is hidden to support the touch UI Android is good at, and on the laptop the user can use either UI depending if they want touch or mouse/keyboard interaction. This way we keep the ma

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