Reports on the death of Google’s Chrome OS may have been greatly exaggerated.
After a report from The Wall Street Journal had us thinking that Chrome OS would be killed and folded into Google’s Android OS, Google responded to refute that claim. Hiroshi Lockheimer, the senior vice-president of Chrome OS, Chromecast and Android said Google is “very committed to Chrome OS” on Twitter.
There’s a ton of momentum for Chromebooks and we are very committed to Chrome OS. I just bought two for my kids for schoolwork!
— Hiroshi Lockheimer (@lockheimer) October 30, 2015
To some, Chrome OS is a glorified web browser with an OS sticker slapped on. To others, it’s a super-fast, simple, and ultra-secure OS that’s perfect to deploy to a large group of users with basic computing needs. No matter what you think of it, there’s plenty of reason to believe Lockheimer when he says it’s here to stay.
It’s an open source project
Even if Google decided to abandon Chrome OS entirely, the Chromium project has been open source since the launch of Chrome OS in 2009. Given the popularity of the operating system and its natural fit to be deployed on laptops issued by a school or a business looking to enable web-based workers, no doubt a community of programmers would continue to support the project. Perhaps that would come in the form of developers supporting client organizations, or perhaps it would come in the form of a professional services company built on supporting open source software (think Red Hat and Linux).
Outside of Google, Moblin.org, WebKit, Ubuntu, and GNU were contributors to the Chrome OS project, so it’s possible one of those groups would take on the Chrome OS cause and champion its continued development. Chrome OS can be installed on any PC, so finding hardware to support it also isn’t dependent on Google’s activities.
Android and Chrome OS already have a lot of crossover
Chrome OS, of course, is based upon the Chrome browser, and the Chrome browser is already integrated into Android as the default browser. The open source Chromium project updates often affect both the browser – including the Android iteration – and the OS version of the product simultaneously.
Google has also already been working on allowing Chrome OS users to run Android apps, developing the beta version of the App Runtime for Chrome. Right now its intended as a developer preview, so users have to download APK files and load them with the tool. But the motivation to developers to port Android apps to Chrome is clear and a sign that Google envisions a future where the Google Play store is open to devices beyond mobile.
From an organizational perspective, Google has grouped both Android and Chrome OS together since 2013. The work we’ve seen out of that division so far suggests that Chrome OS and Android are becoming more consistent and intertwined from the perspective that Android apps provide an answer to a major shortfall of Chrome OS – it doesn’t run locally stored software.
Newly released Chromebooks have to be supported
Google may have unveiled its Pixel C tablet running Android – a possible signal that its Pixel line of products is moving away from Chrome, but other third-party manufacturers like HP have just released new Chromebook hardware.
Dropping support for Chrome could cause some hardware partners unwanted headaches with stranded users, so you can bet Google will at least be committed to offering some level of support for a couple of years to come.
Editor’s update – Monday at 2:52 PM ET
Lockheimer has written a blog on Google’s Chrome Blog confirming that there are no plans to phase out Chrome OS, but you can expect to see more features from Android integrated into the OS over time.