Linux may rule in most places — supercomputers, mobile, and Wall Street to name a few — but the Windows empire has still held on to the desktop, despite Windows 8.x's failure to grab marketshare quickly. Now there's new hope: At Google I/O, Sundar Pichai, Google's head of Chrome and Android, said during the opening keynote that Google will be giving Chrome OS the power to run Android apps.
I'd predicted that Google would bring the world's most popular mobile operating system, Android, together with its increasingly popular desktop operating system, Chrome OS last year. It took Google longer than I thought it would but Pichai finally pulled the trigger.
Pichai said that that Android apps will be brought to Chrome OS. During his demo he showed Evernote, Vine and Flipboard all running on a Chromebook.
The reason for bringing them together is easy as dusting crops on Tatooine. While Chromebooks have been gaining in popularity, Android, with its one billion active users, is the most popular smartphone and tablet operating system on the planet. Merge Android's apps with Chrome OS's anyone-can-use-it interface and you have a worthy rival to Windows on the desktop.
As Pichai observed, it's not like Chromebooks don't have fans in their own right. He claimed that eight companies make 15 different Chromebook models, and they account for the 10 best-rated laptops on Amazon.
Pichai also showed off the forthcoming Android L mobile operating system by showing Android apps being mirrored on a Chromebook display. While Pichai is making no promises as when we'll see a fully merged Android/Chrome OS, we're clearly on our way to combined operating system hyperspace.
Since both operating systems are based on Linux, they share a common foundation. In addition, while the vast majority of current Chromebooks don't have a touch interface, Google has actually supported touch on Chrome OS since the release of the Chromebook Pixel in early 2013. In addition, Google has been expanding Chrome OS's touch support in Project Athena.
Put it all together and I, for one, won't be surprised to see touchscreen-equipped Chromebooks that can run Android apps on top of Chrome OS on sale by the 2014 holiday season. I think this means we'll see a real desktop star wars beginning late this year. The alliance of Android and Chrome OS against an aging and unpopular Windows 8.x may finally lead to Microsoft facing real desktop competition for the first time in a generation.
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