One of the many problems with being ahead of your time is that you usually create markets that aren’t ready for you. This has been the main obstacle for the Chromebook and many other products that have come before it. Google may believe Chrome OS is ready, but perhaps the Internet just isn’t ready for Chrome OS?
The main problem is that for a truly triumphant browser-based OS, it requires a faster and more abundant Internet connection (typical speeds 10 Mbps). Google gets this, with projects like Google Fiber (1 Gbps = 1,000 Mbps), but these projects are distant plans that don’t help Chrome OS now.
Google would also love nothing more than to get you to the cloud faster. It allows them to offer more HTML5 web apps on one standard platform, while also developing and expanding productivity apps like Google Drive. But with so many holes in the infrastructure of the Internet, using a Chromebook as your everyday computer can be cumbersome and unnecessary. Many may just install the free Chrome browser on their current desktops and laptops as opposed to buying essentially a $400 browser launcher. That’s why it might make sense to introduce transitional products like Android now and readdress Chrome OS later.
Unlike Chrome, Android allows for a more traditional way of storing localized files. Instead of being completely reliant on the Internet for day-to-day function, an Android operated notebook (DroidBook) could allow Google to accomplish the same goals without asking their customers to sacrifice too much when offline. Also, with the framework of Google Play available to offer immediate support for app distribution (600,000+ apps), Android’s already 68 percent global smartphone market share (reported for last quarter), and recent success in the tablet space with the Nexus 7, maybe all Google really needed was a Nexus-style laptop? Which could also run Chrome.
The difficulty will be how the Android operating systems will differ across the hardware. Android on a laptop might need to be different than the way Android exists on a tablet and smartphone. Google’s already traveled down this road before with Honeycomb (Android 3.0 for tablets) and fixed it with Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0 – merging tablet and smartphone OS). With those factors at play, it’s hard to see them tinkering with it again. There’s also the problem with Android’s open source nature. It offers flexibility for manufacturers, but it also introduces a boatload of fragmentation – which is the last thing Google wants to deal with in another hardware space, and one absent from Chrome OS. Apps like Android’s Chrome Browser will also have to be different in certain regards by requiring more traditional support for notebooks.
With Windows 8 and OS X Mountain Lion, both Microsoft and Apple are working to combine their mobile and desktop platforms. So making Android available on desktops and laptops could help Google get a foothold in a market where Chrome OS is struggling, or maybe Chromebooks just need to hold onto a space they could dominate once the Internet catches up.