The patents buffs at PatentlyApple have unearthed a new patent application that suggests Google is working on making the next generations of Android more suitable for running PCs. Specifically, Google is working on a method of controlling multi-touch applications on a computer, by using a multi-touch trackpad (like Apple’s Magic Trackpad). The patent filing shows how Google wants to map swipe and pinch movements to on-screen actions. The concept will work with a smartphone as well, effectively turning your phone into a touchpad for your computer.
Why is this patent application newsworthy? Because we know that Google is trying to extend the reach of Android into the realm of traditional PC operating systems. A recent report even suggests that Android 5.0 might integrate portions of Chrome OS (currently used in Chromebooks, like Samsung’s Series 5) so it can run on notebooks and netbooks. According to the same source, Android 5.0 may share bunks with Windows 8 on dual-bootable machines. Moreover, Chrome OS hasn’t seen the spotlight for a while, so it’s very possible that Google decided to merge Android and Chrome OS at some point in the future.
As CNET’s Josh Lowensohn notes, Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich already supports mice, keyboards, styluses, and other input device. But using a mouse to control an app that was designed for multi-touch input is awkward and, at times, painful. It makes sense for Google to make Android more computer-proof by harnessing the capabilities of a multi-touch trackpad.
Operating systems turmoil
Google’s recent application is important when considering the bigger picture. The OS landscape is in the midst of a revolution. Just yesterday, we noted that Canonical is preparing Ubuntu for Android, which will put a dormant Ubuntu (the full desktop version) on your Android smartphone, ready to pop up whenever you plug your phone to a monitor. Other tidbits of news indicate that Google may improve Motorola’s Webtop technology and add it to Android 5.0, again, to make Android computer-ready. Microsoft and Apple, as well, are working hard on unifying their operating systems.
With the boundaries between the PC and the mobile device slowly blurring, Google, Canonical, Apple, and Microsoft all scramble to unify the user experience of their operating systems across multiple screens.
Android is already the leading operating system for smartphones. However, by attacking the PC OS market, Android has a good chance at the biggest prize – becoming the number one operating system, across all platforms.
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probably not an issue for phones – but one thing that a desk computer MUST be able to do is to run Windows executables. In an ideal world, all software would be written in Java – but in the world that we live in, much software is written in other languages. Worse still – in many cases, only the executable files are available – not the source code.
I don’t know how easy this would be – but with tablet computers becoming popular, maybe the custodians of Wine would consider making a version for Android?