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Will Google's Android-Chrome Consolidation Threaten Windows?

Google's decision to pull the man known as the father of Android from that group is a huge gamble by CEO Larry Page and one that poses a new threat to Microsoft and Apple.

The unexpected move to bring Android under the auspices of Sundar Pichai, who already oversees Chrome and Apps, suggests Page remains determined to upend the PC business just as his company has done with tablets and smartphones.

While Page didn't say that outright, read between the lines: "Today we're living in a new computing environment," he said in a blog post announcing the move. "While Andy's a really hard act to follow, I know Sundar will do a tremendous job doubling down on Android as we work to push the ecosystem forward."

Since their debut in 2011, Chromebooks have not moved the needle much. Page's move this week looks like he has a master plan in hopes of giving Chromebooks a major lift. Windows fans and Microsoft shouldn't shrug this off, at least not yet, lest we forget how many did the same when Google first announced the Android phone OS. By bringing Android, Chrome and ChromeOS together, Google will be able to draw from the ecosystem that to make Chromebooks a more compelling alternative to Windows PCs (and Macs for that matter).

In addition to piggybacking on the Android ecosystem for Chrome OS, leveraging technology from Android could have all kinds of ramifications including the ability to provide application portability and an improved touch interface, among other things. While the initial crop of Chromebooks boast a low price tag of less that $500 (some half that amount), they have had limited capabilities -- effectively only allowing you to use the Chrome browser to run Google Apps in the cloud.

Things are changing and now the latest entry, the Google Chromebook Pixel, starts at a hefty $1,299, which PCWorld labels "an expensive curiosity." One of the key objections to Chromebooks -- that you have to store your Google Apps in the cloud -- is going to go away.  As Derik VanVleet, a senior solutions engineer on the sales team of Atlanta-based Cloud Sherpas, Google's largest partner, explains, Google will offer a native client for Chrome that will be natively built into Google Apps thanks to the company's acquisition of Quickoffice last year.

"This whole conversation of documents fidelity and document conversion goes away," VanVleet told me. "Quickoffice allows me to natively edit Microsoft documents in their native format with virtually 100 percent fidelity, better than what Microsoft is able to offer in Office 365 Web Apps. Once Quickoffice is fully integrated to Google Apps whole conversation is going to go away and Microsoft is going to have a real problem."

All About Microsoft blogger and Redmond magazine columnist Mary Jo Foley has often pointed to the possibility of Microsoft bringing together its Windows and Windows Phone groups. Weighing in on Google's OS consolidation move this week, she again raised the specter of Microsoft finally merging the two groups and platforms.

There's another factor to consider. PC makers are fuming over Microsoft's covert development and ultimate release of its Surface tablet. That has led quite a few, the latest being HP, to jump on the Chromebook bandwagon. But just as PC makers need to keep Microsoft in check, Google is offering its own branded device and with its Motorola Mobility unit, has the resources to continue that push.

Google's realignment also comes as Bloomberg today reports that sales of Microsoft's Surface devices are more dismal than originally projected. Microsoft has sold only 400,000 Surface Pros and 1 million Surface RTs -- half of what it projected, sources told Bloomberg. Microsoft did not comment on the report.

Chromebooks haven't made a dent either, so right now Google and Microsoft are in the same boat. While I asked last month if HP and others jumping on the Chromebook bandwagon might bolster ChromeOS's prospects, the response was that Chromebooks will have their place but so will Windows 8 and Windows RT.

Do you think Google's move Wednesday will up the ante in making Chromebooks more appealing to consumers and business users? And how do you think Microsoft should respond? Drop me a line at jschwartz@1105media.com.

 

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 03/15/2013 at 1:15 PM


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Reader Comments:

Sun, Mar 17, 2013 Adam

The integration with Quickoffice can help make Chromebooks more attractive to business customers, but it may not be enough. Microsoft Office applications are not the only Windows applications out there in the enterprise. Other Windows-based software such as ERP, CRM and even internally developed applications need to be accessed as well. Chromebook users that want to work with Windows applications beyond Microsoft Office can use existing solutions such as Ericom AccessNow. AccessNow is an HTML5 RDP client that enables Chromebook users to connect to Terminal Server or VDI virtual desktops, and run any Windows application (not just MS Office) or even full desktops in a browser tab. Click here for a live interactive demo: http://www.ericom.com/demo_AccessNow.asp?URL_ID=708 Please note that I work for Ericom

Sun, Mar 17, 2013 symbolset

Except in the minds of some pundits there is no Android/Chrome integration immediately planned. The whole "One OS for all" idea is entirely alien to how Chrome and Android operate. We have the current horror of TIFKAM on Windows Server to show why this is a bad idea. Forcing users into this prematurely is a Microsoft thing. Facebook and twitter integration on my Master Domain Controller and Exchange Server? No. Not just "no" but .... no. Maybe someday the two flavors will merge, as the underlying kernel is the same and they can share UI elements. You could do Chrome browser in Android now, and Android VM in Chrome OS. But they are very different things for very different purposes and convergence is a long way off. There is no danger that the convergence of these two things is going to be forced on anybody any time soon.

Fri, Mar 15, 2013

The competition now is about ecosystem (which why I see Blackberry eventually failing). Obviously, Google has a strong one in the cloud and with Android tablets and smartphones. Apple and Microsoft have strong ecosystems as well. Google and Microsoft are pretty much reversed tablet/phone versus netbook/notebook OS-wise. The tipping point in favor of web-centric apps over native apps hasn't been reached yet in notebooks, netbooks, smartphones and tablets. So, no, I don't see Google winning the battle any time soon.

Fri, Mar 15, 2013 Andy

Yeah, I want to use an operating system where I am eternally logged into Google so they can track my every move and then sell my information for a buck.

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