What’s the most popular operating system in use in the world today? If you said Android, you’re spot on, if you said Windows, that’s probably something of a surprise. However popular Android is, Google appears to have lost control of its platform, to the point where fragmentation, both in versions and also in forks, has run away with it and there’s no opportunity to put the genie back into the box.
The rumours of a merger of Android and Chrome OS to create a new, all pervasive platform, sound like an attempt to build a new box. One that Google controls and one that leverages the best of both of its parent platforms to create a user experience that puts Microsoft on notice.
Android is everywhere, it is powerful and somewhat flexible. Chrome OS is constantly up to date, supports larger screen sizes and runs fluidly on a variety of hardware. Between them they have the capability to create a single, viable alternative to Windows. Chrome OS is already outselling MacOS in several market segments, notably in Apple’s former stronghold of education.
The problem is that Google has a significant gap between concept and execution, one that has beleaguered almost everything it has released since Android. How many messaging clients, social platforms and devices have come and gone as Google struggled to make them work and get customers to adopt them?
Given the speed with which Microsoft has been iterating through Windows 10 releases and updates it seems unlikely that an upstart OS from Google could quickly rise to compete.
This is where Google’s momentum with Android comes into play. A new platform where Google maintains a much tighter control of ownership and distribution, locks down vendor customisations, preventing fragmentation and enforcing a device independent upgrade mechanism changes the mobile market initially. The new platform offers an easy upgrade for existing Android owners.
Pushing all of those advantages, plus the Play Store, onto desktop class devices offers the potential for a much bigger change on the desktop. Common functionality between desktop and mobile, the ability to morph one device into another (much like Continuum, but with lighter requirements and a wider app base) as well as all of the Handoff-like functionality that Android can already offer, these are all attractive selling points for users who haven’t upgraded a PC in half a decade or more.
Microsoft might find that its inability to compete the mobile space comes back to bite it hard here.