Google will merge Android and Chrome OS by 2017: report

For years, people have wondered when Google would combine Android and Chrome OS. That day appears to be coming.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor
Android and Chrome OS appear to be merging.

The marriage day of Android and Chrome OS may finally be set on the calendar.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, citing sources with knowledge of the matter, that Google plans to fold its Chrome operating system into Android.

It follows on from reports two years ago when Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt refused to rule out merging the two Linux based operating systems.

Last year, rumors emerged that Google was already at work in combining its popular end-user operating systems. And, in June 2014, Sundar Pichai -- now Google's CEO -- said that the company will be giving Chrome OS the power to run Android apps..

This move make a great deal of sense. Android and Chrome OS are Linux-based operating systems, which support apps in different ways but share the same foundation. Android forms its own distribution family, while Chrome OS is based on Gentoo Linux.

Both have their own strengths they could bring to a merged smartphone, tablet, and desktop operating system. Android, which runs on more than a billion devices, is the single most popular end-user operating system, with more than 1.6 million apps. Chrome OS has shown that Web-based apps are sufficient enough for many desktop users. In addition, Android is plagued with multiple versions that are very difficult to upgrade.

Chrome OS updates all versions on all systems. If Google gets vendors to update their Android devices using Chrome OS' upgrade methodology, Android would instantly become much more secure.

Sources close to the matter said that Chrome OS isn't going away any time soon, however.

"Google will still be pursuing Chromebook partnerships, for example since Chromebooks are doing better than ever in US schools."

Another source said that it makes sense now to explore with mobile devices becoming the primary device. There are opportunities to provide an open platform for both mobile and desktop. This is already happening. Examples of this direction include Chromecast running on a version of Android and the new Pixel C Android tablet.

In a recent issue of Fast Company, Google engineer Hiroshi Lockheimer, one of the leading Android developers, said that with the Android and Chrome OS now under the same management its "easier to implement cross-platform features such as the ability to use an Android phone to unlock a Chromebook."

We can now see the where these cross-platforms efforts are leading to: A new merged operating system.

Alas, while the marriage license may be signed, the actual release date is still over a year in the future. The Journal reports that the combined "Android Chrome OS" won't ship until 2017.

A beta version may be available sometime in 2016.

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