Wednesday, November 24, 2010

ChromeOS and Android: there can be only one

Since I dived into Android and started thinking about 'what it could be', it is obvious that a lot of what android does is supposed to be delivered by ChromeOS.

First, I had to freshen up on ChromeOS. The Google OS that is supposed to be a windows killer is a web-browser centric view of the world has 'cloud' written all over it. The net-centric PC has been in the making for 15 years. There is nothing earth-shattering in there but yet another Linux kernel. Of course, where google could really kill it, is if they replicated the success of MacOSX. After all the rebirth of apple included "leveraging" open source and providing a closed source UI on top it. And what a great job they have done at it. A part of me hopes Goog will deliver on the UI front. It could be enough for me to try it.

Android meanwhile is targeted at the mobile platform with touch as an input device. It seems to me that these "differences" are cosmetic. At heart we are talking about net-book class CPUs, with linux, a UI and development environment. This is stuff that retails in the 200-300 price range and costs about 50 to make.

So I am left wondering what kind of applications are developers left to develop. Obviously in the case of Chrome one would want to develop both native applications in C/C++ on linux, replicating the cocoa experience on mac as well as web based GWT applications. Both approaches have merit. And indeed the true difference lies in the development environment.

On Android, we have java applications as a native platform. Then of course we have we have web based applications. And then it should hit you. There isn't much difference in both approaches except one focuses on java native vs C++ native. And as a further cherry on top, it is also obvious that you will be able to code java on chrome and you are able to customize the Linux distribution (in C) on Android.

So there you have it, there really is no difference. So why the two products? I think it has to do with history. When the projects started (at least 4 years ago for android) the industry and technology looked a bit different. Different enough to warrant the separation. The hardware of net vs mobile hadn't converged yet. From a sales standpoint, they are also two different markets. Selling to "mobiles" is different than selling to "PC manufacturers". Also different teams of engineers like to do different things.

That being said, I read that Brin declared the two would "converge" eventually. I would argue that convergence has happened already, both hardware and business approach. And that in fact the last bastion of separation threatens to be the software environment ITSELF. Waiting for a winner to emerge is also a classic corporate move. In our case, Android has got a lot of wind behind it, with a tsunami of "mobile" class devices inundating the market and tablets coming right after. The convergence happened at Tablet. The rest needs to give.

Google should consolidate engineering and marketing. Bring some of the chrome team to work on the droid. Merge marketing teams to market both solutions under ONE NAME: ANDROID to two different market (net and mobile, which converge in tablet). Otherwise Google risks creating confusion in its developer following. A critical mistake, apple has avoided. Merge Chrome and Android under the DROID brand and move on.

No comments: