The Wall Street Journalreported yesterday evening that Alphabet Inc.'s ( GOOGL ) Google subsidiary is to fold its Chrome operating system (OS) for personal computers with its highly popular Android mobile operating system.
The company plans to unveil its new, unified operating system by 2017, with a preliminary version to be revealed as early as next year.
Of the two operating systems, Android is vastly more popular and readily used than Chrome OS. The Android operating system is the world's most used mobile system, powering more than 1 billion phones, tablets, and other devices from many companies.
Chrome OS, on the contrary, pales in comparison with Android's popularity. The operating system is Google's effort to bring an Internet browser-centric experience that encourages users to access software and apps - primarily Google ones - through the Chrome browser on low-cost and stripped-down laptops called Chromebooks.
According to the WSJ article, Chromebooks are "niche players, accounting for less than 3% of PCs according to research firm IDC."
This move to create a single operating system is Google's attempt to maximize the number of devices Android runs on, as well as increase the number of Android users. Android already runs on cell phones, tablets, watches, TVs, and car infotainment systems. By merging Chrome OS with Android to allow the mobile operating system to run on laptops, Google can considerably increase its user base and market share.
Chrome OS users would also enjoy access to the Google Play Store, a digital marketplace where users can purchase and download millions of apps - a perk that is not currently available.
Per the WSJ report, Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai, who led the development of Chrome OS back in 2009, told analysts that "mobile as a computing paradigm is eventually going to blend with what we think of as desktop today."
"Right now we don't have strong interest in developing for Chrome OS. The market size is relatively small," said Alex Davis, an engineering manager working on app development at Airbnb. Switching to Android is "probably the right move for Google," Mr. Davis said. "Android is so ubiquitous and so many people are used to using it."
Not everyone believes this is the right move for Google. The company's arch-nemesis and CEO of Apple Inc. ( AAPL ) Tim Cook is quoted in the cited article that combining the operating systems "subtracts from both, and you don't get the best experience from either." It should be noted that Apple has two separate operating systems for their PCs and mobile devices.
Folding Chrome OS into Android to develop a singular operating system for all forms of mobile devices is probably the best move for Google. People are shifting away from the old desktop model and want access to all of their information from anywhere they are. Workplace productivity apps like Docs and Sheets running on a unified OS would run more easily across different devices. Transition from the work PC to the cell phone or tablet when performing work related tasks, which would be saved to Google Drive, is where the global workforce is most likely going.
Google wants to be ahead of the curve, and a unified operation system across all devices is the logical move in the world's evolving, consistently on-the-go mindset.