Why Google Needs to Back Android for Large 2-in-1’s and Laptops

on September 30, 2015

Last week, I wrote a piece on Tech.pinions that pointed out Gen Y, Gen Z and Millennials have all grown up with iPhones and iOS has become their main mobile operating system. I reasoned that, when this generation moves into the business world, it is most likely they will want tools that favor iOS rather than have to move to and learn a completely new OS such as Windows. I believe Apple has created the iPad Pro with this in mind and I would not be surprised if, at some point, Apple even does a touch-based clamshell with iOS as its operating system. There will always be some who prefer a clamshell to a 2-in-1 form factor.

But 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, cut their computing teeth on Android instead of iOS. Would they, like their iOS counterparts, prefer more powerful Android tools to take with them into the world of business?

I believe the answer to this is squarely in Google’s court. Today, the Android OS world is still highly fragmented. Apple has a distinct edge over Google because they own the hardware, software and apps ecosystem and have brought a level of important continuity between iOS upgrades and their ability to interact with other iOS and Mac devices in their ecosystems of apps and services. But Goggle still has multiple versions of their own Android as well as non-Google certified versions floating around. That means some Android apps work fine with some versions of Android, while others do not. They have also been weak on how they update Android, although it is getting better.

The bigger roadblock I see with this is Google’s tight grip on the certification process for Android and what an OEM partner must accept in order to receive Google’s blessing or certification for their Android devices. Most Android hardware players want to add their own tweaks to the UI and try and differentiate it from other vendors. Google makes that difficult for them, given their demands that they can use these partners as a vehicle to drive ads and revenue to Google. I believe Google needs to loosen their grip on these controls over Android if this mobile OS has any chance of getting this younger generation to take this OS with them as they move into the business world.

A month back I wrote a piece asking “Could Android save the PC industry?”. I wrote about a Chinese company named Jide, founded by three guys formerly part of the Google Android team, who have created a version of Android for use on a laptop. The Jide OS is called Remix, it runs Android apps, and it includes the Google Play store, which suggests Google has sort of blessed this version. Check out its site and click on the demo. But the operative phrase is “sort of blessed by Google.” In the past, Google did not want Android to be used on anything other than a smartphone or a tablet. But with Jide, Google has slightly loosened their grip and allowed this platform to have a type of certification that lets them deploy the Google Store. It still not clear whether Google actually endorses this version or that they gave these Ex-Googlers some type of special dispensation.

Google seems hell bent to make Chrome OS their desktop and laptop OS and push their Web browser to be the OS that transcends their tablet and smartphone Android platforms. There is one problem with this. What makes iOS and Android so appealing is each has over one million apps in their stores and Gen Z, Gen Y and the 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 in larger form factors into the business world makes sense.

As I pointed out in the article on iOS being the enterprise OS of Millennials, Apple seems to understand this. 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 one’s IBM is creating for iOS, and 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?

Google needs to understand this. I am not suggesting they abandon Chrome since it is getting serious traction in education due to its low costs and web-based curriculum being designed for it. But I am saying Google needs to see that, for this younger generation, Android may need to be able to move out of its smartphone and tablet confines and into new designs more acceptable for use as a business tool when this younger generation moves into corporate America.

Google’s new Android 10″ tablet with keyboard, the Pixel C, is a step in the right direction. But this screen is too small for serious productivity. This move seems more like a knee jerk reaction to Apple’s iPad Pro launch a few weeks back. You can bet Apple is going to put serious dollars into marketing the iPad Pro to business users and work even closer with business app makers to shape enterprise apps.

If Google even wants a chance to capture a younger generation and move Android into business as they hit the workforce, Google needs to heartily endorse the idea of Android in large 2-in-1’s and laptops unless they want to let Apple own this younger crowd — many of whom are already switching to iOS.