Google kills off Motorola’s Webtop. Isn’t Android ready for desktops?

by: LucianSeptember 11, 2012


Now that Google has acquired Motorola, they are able to make their opinions clear about whether they think Android is or will ever be suited for desktop use. With the termination of Motorola’s Webtop, it’s becoming clear that Google has no intention of ever using Android as a desktop OS. So the question is, will Google ever compete for the desktop market?

Google still has ChromeOS, which I’ve always thought is designed for $200 machines, or devices that are free on contract. But Google doesn’t usually understand how to price these “new category” devices when they are first launching them (see original Google TV and Motorola’s Xoom). I think ChromeOS hasn’t succeeded in a meaningful way so far because the devices it’s running on are too expensive when you’re just getting a “browser”, and because HTML5 and other web technologies are simply “not there” yet.

Sergey Brin has said before that he can see ChromeOS and Android merging together at some point in the future. This could be why Google is killing Motorola’s Webtop, and why they seem to have no intention of porting Android to desktop PCs. Perhaps they want to give ChromeOS one more major push, by integrating it with Android. That would offer users a tablet or smartphone experience in standalone mode, and a desktop experience when docking the device to a PC monitor with a keyboard and mouse.

Although Google has said for a long time that ChromeOS will be ported to ARM, that hasn’t happened yet. It seems the technical issues were quite challenging. Also they are probably doing a favor to Intel’s Paul Otellini (Google board member) by supporting ChromeOS on Intel chips first.

I think it’s a very bad strategic choice. If Atom ever gets popular in the mobile world, it will ultimately play in Microsoft’s favor, because they can actually from making x86 apps work on their mobiles devices. Meanwhile, Google has no real benefit from supporting Atom, and by helping Intel they are just indirectly helping Microsoft.

Google may finally be ready to port ChromeOS to ARM, as some leaks were showing they are working on porting it to Samsung’s Exynos 5 Dual chip, but we don’t know yet if that’s just another netbook type device, or a smartphone/tablet that comes with both Android and ChromeOS. I hope they will do the same with Google TV, and merge the smart TV platform with Android, so you can dock your Android phone to any TV.  But this may be a distant goal.

When is this sort of integration going to arrive to Android? My guess is in the next version of Android, which I hope will arrive this fall.

  • raindog469

    You can get a low-end Android desktop for under $50 in the form of a Raspberry Pi, and there are literally dozens of under-$100 options with more power. That’s less than they were selling the Lapdock alone for. My Samsung tablet works pretty well as a laptop with a Bluetooth keyboard case, and it wasn’t even designed to be used that way. So I think the Android desktop PC use case is already in play. I think killing Webtop is about killing off clunky, proprietary phone-manufacturer interfaces that are a waste of time and money, not killing Android as a desktop.

    Is there really a difference between Chrome OS and Chrome for Android running in full screen, anyway? It seems to me that Chrome OS does less than Android, not more. It should never have existed to begin with.

  • “Perhaps they want to give ChromeOS one more major push, by integrating
    it with Android. That would offer users a tablet or smartphone
    experience in standalone mode, and a desktop experience when docking the
    device to a PC monitor with a keyboard and mouse.”

    Ok, now _this_ is a _dream_! =D

    • Jathan Lane

      A dream I can see happening.

  • micax

    Google really needs to get “on message” and give developers a single target to shoot for, rather than throwing a dozen different APIs at us.

    Chrome OS should be killed, and Android expanded to be the Google OS for mobile and laptop/desktop. And Java/Android should be made a fully compatible development environment for the Chrome app store.

    Of course, that would require one half of Google to know what the other half is doing,which seems to be rarely the case when it comes to Google.

    • Southrncomfortjm

      That last sentence is so true. It really seems Google is a distracted child running from interesting idea to interesting idea, but rarely fully developing any of them. Take the Nexus Q as an example: great idea, but man did they fail on the execution. Why release a device that has crazy potential with a gimped feature set?

      • Jathan Lane

        Because they had to get it done and release it. They wanted it to get in the hands of developers. It wasn’t meant for the mainstream users. They said they will release an updated version. The users that actually bought one will get one of the new Nexus Q’s for free!

        • Southrncomfortjm

          So they did a rush job and released a good piece of hardware with limited or lame functionality. Basically that proves my point. They sure marketed it to mainstream users so I’m not sure where that comment came from. They left it open for hacking, but didn’t even provide solid tools (like a UI) for it. People got a free NQ because Google dropped the ball (pun intended) with it and released an overpriced piece of underperforming hardware.

  • Southrncomfortjm

    My next “laptop” will be an Asus Transformer tablet with keyboard dock. It seems like the ultimate portable productivity solution. Tablet when I want it, laptop when I want it. I know there are some limitations with that model (can’t have two screens open at once, etc) but I’m willing to put up with that to eliminate needing a dedicated laptop. Heck, I’d do this with my Nexus 7 if the screen would allow me to work effectively.
    Point is, I don’t think I’m the only one itching for Google (or some other developer) to make Android workable as a desk/laptop OS.

    • I’m _really_ looking forward to that, really really really. That’s because I like the idea of having a tablet for university (to replace my old, slightly annoying netbook), but I just think having three devices is so pointless. I narrowed down my choices for tablets I would buy (coupling them with bluetooth keyboards) in order to achieve that to 5 or 6, but guess what, none of them are available in Brazil just yet. Word is Asus won’t even bring the Infinity Pad to Brazil, for instance. Sigh…

      On the other hand, I would still keep my heavier laptop for some things. As a writer, I really enjoy hooking it up to the TV and using two screens at a time. I can’t even see two apps at the same time in an Android tablet. Plus, how would I write something such as a LaTeX document in Android? I don’t know, I just don’t see it happening right now…

    • igor bordelais

      As an IT I use a TF101(first asus eeepad transformer) and my laptop is laying in dust over some cupboard, i’ve got the hdmi cable an usb-ethernet and soon a usb-serial adapter it’s all i need to work.
      It’s start instantly, stay much longer than a laptop and everyone in my office is jealous even those who own an ipad3(it’s was the killer touch when i undock it in the annual trade-union meeting).
      As soon as they launch a stable version of calligra,openoffice or libreoffice i ll be free no need for windows(TM) anymore.

      Sorry for my english I try to improve it, please correct me if needed (i’m a kreyol speaker person).

  • I like that dock in your lead photo. I’ve done something similar with an MHL adapter and my Galaxy Nexus. It works okay, but some apps don’t respect the “force landscape” mode of the MHL adapter. It’s awfully awkward trying to mouse sideways on a 32″ HDTV. I wish the MHL adapter would also let apps run at the TV’s resolution and size instead of mirroring the phone resolution and size. Some things that are unreadably small on the phone screen are great on the HDTV, but other things are just huge mouse targets on the HDTV.

    Android is pretty close to being desktop-ready. Just needs a few tweaks here and there.

  • alexander card

    I regularly connect my galaxy nexus through my sharps blue ray player mhl port to my tv and use my bluetooth keyboard and mouse like a massive computer. If they made the copy and paste process easier I’d probably bin my toshiba netbook.

  • seeingwhite

    The reason they are killing off webtop is because of Android’s soon to be integration with desktop Linux. Google it and you will see.