The missing WMD from Android PCs: full Chrome

Once full Chrome is available on Android, watch out. At that point, we may see how loyal manufacturers and users are to the somewhat fickle Microsoft. Booooom!
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

I've been watching with great interest the recent surge in Android PCs we've been seeing at CES. Unlike Chromebooks, they are capable of running far more than Chrome, and unlike traditional Windows, you don't have to run Windows.

At the top of the balance sheet, of course, leaving out Windows means reducing the cost of goods sold for manufacturers, which drives the price of these machines down considerably to consumers and enterprise buyers.

Secondly, unlike iOS devices, Android devices are infinitely "moddable" and tweakable, which means they can be made to fit individual user and corporate needs far more easily than iOS devices (and much more like the Windows machines we're all so familiar with).

But there is one current -- and I believe temporary -- fatal flaw in Android PCs that, if remedied, could explode like a nuke over Redmond: full Chrome.

Android doesn't yet support full Chrome. Instead, it supports some chopped-down mobile cousin to the full Chrome we use on our desktops. There are no extensions in mobile Chrome and the ability to fully integrate all that functionality into a desktop machine exists in Chromebooks, but not in Android PCs.

That, in fact, is (even though I already have a bunch of Android tablets) why I bought a Chromebook and why I think Chromebooks have potential. Even compared to Android PCs, Chromebooks have potential because they are so incredibly quick and simple to get started using, and that's very appealing to overworked IT professionals.

Until a fully-extensible browser is available for Android PCs, I don't think the Android PC category will really take the desktop/laptop PC world by storm. Until a fully-extensible browser is available, they're just big tablets with keyboards.

But once full Chrome is available on Android, watch out!

At that point, we may see how loyal manufacturers are to a vendor (Microsoft) who charges a relatively high COGS price for an OS, has a very unclear strategy and multiple personalities, and directly competes against them at the same time. And we'll see how loyal users are to an old-guard OS that constantly gives them fits and a new OS that they lovingly caress in their pockets.


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