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Will Google Merge Android and Chrome OS?

Google has denied a report that it is two years into an engineering effort that would bring both its Android and Chrome OS together as one operating system. The plan, reported by The Wall Street Journal citing unidentified sources, calls for the effort to be rolled out in 2017, though a preview of the integrated OS could appear next year.

However, according to several reports, Google is not killing Chrome OS. Hiroshi Lockheiner, senior VP for Android, Chromecast, Chrome OS tweeted, "There's a ton of momentum for Chromebooks and we are very committed to Chrome OS. I just bought two for my kids for schoolwork!"

The report said Google's engineering team is looking to meld Chrome OS into Android, the most widely deployed operating system on tablets and phones. The notion of combining the two is has often been floated considering the small share of Chromebooks in use, which is believed to be less than 3 percent. Yet they are popular in certain markets, notably for education.

If Google were to follow through with the plan that was reported, it would be a tacit acknowledgment that a browser-modeled operating system that largely eschews the notion of running an application and data locally has limited appeal.

At the same time, combining the two operating systems could position Google to offer Android on PCs. Such a move could potentially mount a challenge to Mac OS and Windows, though it would remain to be seen if the new operating system's functionality would offer a meaningful threat.

Given the source of the report was two unidentified engineers, at the very least it appears there's at least some internal development taking place. But as we know, many technologies developed in companies' research labs never get out.

Update Nov. 2: Lockheiner issued more clarification in an official blog post. "Over the last few days, there's been some confusion about the future of Chrome OS and Chromebooks based on speculation that Chrome OS will be folded into Android," he noted. "While we've been working on ways to bring together the best of both operating systems, there's no plan to phase out Chrome OS."

A number of new Chromebooks are on tap for release next year, he added, also noting the new the new Chromebook for Work. While Chrome OS may not be going away anytime soon, Lockheiner did pont to the new Apps Runtime on Chrome (ARC) that allows Android apps to run on Chromebooks. "We have plans to release even more features for Chrome OS, such as a new media player, a visual refresh based on Material Design, improved performance, and of course, a continued focus on security," he said.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 10/30/2015 at 2:48 PM


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