How Apple Prompted Google to Create “Chromedroid”

on November 6, 2015

News broke last week that Google was in the process of possibly merging Chrome and Android into what perhaps we should call “ChromeDroid”.

Although Google has not confirmed this (yet), Eric Schmidt’s recent comments at an event in Asia suggests this is likely. If you have read my columns in Tech.pinions recently, I have often suggested this was inevitable. Although Chromebooks have been successful in education, their lack of an apps ecosystem made it unlikely Chrome would be Google’s long term OS beyond its use in this vertical market.

I have also argued Apple’s iPad Pro, with its iOS operating system, would be targeted at business users and upper-end consumers and that Apple would make iOS the cornerstone of a broader push into business. As Tim Cook stated recently at the last launch event in San Francisco, “People can do 80% of what they need to do in iOS” — regardless of whether it is used for business or consumers’ needs. One of the more interesting facts about iOS is this is the OS Gen Z, Gen Y and younger Millennials cut their teeth on when it comes to their introduction to personal computing. It seems logical that, when this younger generation goes into the business world, they could or would want 2-in-1s or even laptops running iOS instead of being forced to use Windows or even the Mac OS X. Ironically, I was told recently that, to some of this younger generation, Mac OS X is now considered “their parent’s OS” in the same way the Mac generation of users referred to Windows in the past.

Using this logic, it is reasonable to ask the question of whether Android could also be the OS a portion of this younger generation wants to take with them into the business world? Although iOS dominates as an OS for most millennials in our country, Android actually outsells iPhones around the world. Many Gen Y and Gen Z, even in the US, start their computing journey on Android instead of iOS. Would they, like their iOS counterparts, prefer more powerful Android tools to take with them into the corporate world? If this happens, it seems this move could be highly influenced by Apple taking iOS mainstream. Depending how they craft these merged operating systems and their ability to scale to things like 2-in-1s and laptops, it will determine if Google will be competitive beyond smartphones in the future.

Google seemed hellbent to make Chrome OS their desktop and laptop OS and push this Web-based OS to be the one that transcends their tablet and smartphone Android platforms. But there is one problem with this. What makes iOS and Android so appealing is that each has over 1.5 million apps in their stores and Gen Z , Gen Y and millennials crave the versatility an app ecosystem gives them. Add to that the fact these operating systems are the ones they use day in and day out with a plethora of apps that meet pretty much every digital need they have and you can see why taking their mobile OS of choice to larger form factors in the business world makes sense.

With the iPad Pro (and a potential MacBook with iOS on it some day), iOS could be the enterprise OS of the millennials. Apple seems to understand this well. The new iPad Pro as a 2-in-1 makes it easy for this demographic to go from their current mobile first approach of using technology to making it possible for them to use a powerful new mobile form factor with the same OS in their jobs. Couple this with next generation iOS applications, such as the apps IBM is creating for iOS, why would they want or need to move to Windows if they can do the same tasks as powerfully and efficiently on iOS in a 2-in-1 form factor or lightweight clamshell?

It is clear to me Google realizes what Apple is doing with iOS and that Chrome would not cut it with this younger generation who want greater flexibility and versatility in the devices they use. While I doubt they’ll completely abandon Chrome, since it is getting serious traction in education due to its low cost and Web-based curriculum being designed for it, I am saying Google now sees that, for this younger generation, Android may need to be able to move out of its smartphone and tablet confines and into new designs that are more acceptable for use as a business tool when this younger generation moves into Corporate America. Merging Chrome and Android does this.

This is not a knee-jerk reaction to Apple’s iOS strategy, although I think Apple’s recent moves pushed them to do this sooner rather than later. The merger of Chrome and Android has been coming for some time. Google has stated they want Android apps to work within Chrome. It’s a good idea but, with Chrome being grounded in HTML, it does not provide the level of flexibility Android users want in various form factors. Merging the two and using Android as the core OS for cross-platform and cross-device implementations keeps them competitive with Apple and Microsoft.
Google has not publicly clarified the merger of Android and Chrome but I can’t see them doing otherwise if they want to stay relevant in a fast moving world where mobile is driving the future of technology.