Touchscreen Google Nexus Chromebook reportedly in the works. Android convergence coming soon?

by: J. Angelo RacomaDecember 3, 2012

Google-branded Chromebooks coming soon? (Pictured: Samsung Chromebook)

Google is taking a page from the Apple and Microosft playbook. While the company’s strength lies in its search business and mobile operating system, it’s not exactly a hardware company, except for its partnerships (past and present) with HTC, Asus and LG for the production of Nexus devices, and of course its ownership of Motorola Mobility. Recent reports indicate, though, that Google may be planning to produce a device of its own — more specifically, a Chrome OS notebook.

The China Commercial Times cites Taiwanese manufacturers Compal and Wintek as servicing orders from Google for Chromebook computers with a 12.85-inch touchscreen display. As such, while Google has relied on Samsung and Acer for its previous Chromebook releases, this upcoming release might be similar to how Microsoft is going forward with its Windows 8 platform, by producing its own Surface tablet.

Does it make sense for Google to market its own Chromebooks? Perhaps this effort goes beyond how Nexus devices are intended to provide a “pure Google” experience in Android devices, given that Chrome OS is essentially a Chrome browser running Google services. Market-wise, Chromebooks are going strong, despite the general decline in the desktop computer industry. Samsung’s ARM-powered $249 Chromebook is currently the best-selling notebook computer on Amazon as of end-November.

Going beyond Chromebooks and laptops, though, there is one other thing that market observers are seeing as a possibility: the marriage between Android and Chrome OS.

The concept of convergence between Android and Chrome OS is not exactly new, and Google VP for engineering Linus Upson  said as much at this May’s Google I/O conference. The Android and Chrome OS teams are “working together even more closely” he was quoted to say.

Further analysis by ZDNet‘s Steven Vaughan-Nichols even puts a stronger case for the Android-Chrome OS convergence. Chrome ships as the default browser for Android 4.x onward, and Android runs on Linux underpinnings, anyway. This means it should not be too difficult for Chrome OS to switch platforms and perhaps run its system on top of Android. The upcoming Android 4.2 multi-user support will make the case for convergence even stronger, as multiple users are usually an essential feature in desktop OSes.

Of course, there’s the concern that putting everything in the cloud could be limiting for many reasons. First, you will need a fast Internet connection in order for things to be buttery smooth. Then there are the security concerns — what if someone gains access to your data?

In an article at Phone Arena earlier this year, it was argued that convergence would be one of three things, or a combination thereof: Chrome OS running on top of Android (possible through Chrome for Android), Android apps running on the Chrome browser, and the Google Play Store and Chrome Store merging together to offer apps side-by-side.

Whichever it is, this could be an interesting evolution in the desktop computer industry. Chrome OS and Android might eventually be the true successor to the Windows PC, in terms of mass-market desktop devices.

  • JG

    “It’s not exactly a hardware company, except for its partnerships (past and present) with HTC, Asus and LG for the production of Nexus devices”

    Don’t forget Samsung… They’re Google’s go-to for Nexus devices…. The Nexus S, Galaxy and 10….were all Samsung built devices.

  • QuanahHarjo

    I think it would make more sense for Android to run on Chrome OS underpinnings than vice-versa. Android Chrome is half-baked, and Android lacks a good multiwindow scheme that would be better for larger screen devices. The current version of Chrome OS actually has a pretty good window manager. I would rather see them continue as separate entities, but with Chrome OS gaining the ability to run Android on the side.

    • This.

      I can’t picture a touch-centric operating system like Android playing well with a mouse and keyboard. Apple has made motions towards a convergence between iOS and OS X and even that is minimal.

      Besides, Chrome OS is still young, why rewrite the book so early into its lifespan? Will older Chromebooks gain access to these OS updates?

      • ZTLaidlaw

        Very true! In regards to the potential Nexus Chromebook, I have read other articles that suggest Google’s latest personal computer would/could be touchscreen-compatible. This would be a perfect way to introduce Android to the Chrome OS, therefore making Nexus unique amongst its competitors (again) and offering a “pure Android” experience, especially if Chrome OS and Android do in fact collide. I think the mesh could be fun.

  • I think this means, android is becoming the de factor standard for mobile OSs. I like to see how android is handled on a notebook.

  • terry

    Been using a Linux netbook (1gb ram and 8gb SSD) for the past 4 years so its still fun
    to see an old paradigm getting revamped and sold as something new.

    So its quaint to see the ‘cloud is bad’ meme popping up here…

    Lets ban all web email.