No Chrome-Android merger, at least in the next year or two

New Android chief expected to clarify role of the two OSes at Google I/O this week; analysts say keeping them apart is confusing, wasteful

Android's new boss hinted of an eventual merger of Chrome and Android but said the two will remain separate "for the short term," in an interview posted prior to Google I/O's opening keynote on Wednesday.

The comments by Google's Sundar Pichai with Wired marked his first interview since taking over as head of Android from Andy Rubin. Pichai was previously head of the Chrome division and moved to assume control of both Chrome and Android in March.

This year's Google I/O developer conference includes more than 80 breakout sessions on Android and Chrome (and Apps) over three days, but presentations are also scheduled on Google Glass, Google Wallet, YouTube, Google Cloud, Google Maps and other topics.

Analysts have assumed Pichai's dual responsibilities would lead to some kind of merger of the functions of the Android OS and Chrome OS, and Pichai attempted to clarify those expectations in the interview: "We embrace both [Android and Chrome], and we are continuing to invest in both. So in the short run, nothing changes...The picture may look different a year or two from now, but in the short term, we have Android and we have Chrome and we are not changing course."

Still, in answer to a follow-up question, Pichai indicated more synergism between Android and Chrome may be coming. "We want to do the right things at each stage, for users and developers. We are trying to find commonalities. On the browser layer, we share a lot of stuff. We will increasingly do more things like that. And maybe there's a more synergistic answer down the line."

Pichai's comments seem on the same track as those made by Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt in March albeit with a different timeline: "There will be more commonality [between Chrome OS and Android] for sure, but they are certainly going to remain separate for a very, very long time because they solve different problems," Schmidt said.

Several analysts said they are awaiting more clarity on a possible merger of Chrome and Android at the upcoming Google I/O. At least two analysts say the two must come together to avoid confusion amid developers and manufacturers and duplication in their efforts.

"Mid term, between three to five years, Chrome and Android need to converge," said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy, in an email on Monday. "Over the last few years, Chrome has become more like Android and Android has adopted Chrome features. If it keeps moving in this direction, it will just result in confusion. Having two different experiences that are similar is a waste of time, energy and resources to the ecosystem of OEMs, developers and sales channels."

Moorhead said developer tools for both, Chromium and the Android SDK, should merge as well.

Rob Enderle, an analyst at Enderle Groups, added: "Two different OSes with overlapping missions seems to be an unnecessary complication. The Chrome OS needs sales volume, while Android needs to be fixed. Android is very insecure and has too much intellectual property that doesn't belong to Google."

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