First look: Android on Chrome OS is a poor fit

Even for a beta, the merger of Google's two operating systems is a disappointment that begs the question: Why bother?

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2

I get that Android-capable Chromebooks are still cheaper than the other devices. A laptop will cost you $600 to $3,000, a tabtop $500 to $2,000, and a decent tablet $400 to $1,200. An Android-compatible Chromebook can be had for $300 or less. But Chromebooks aren't that much cheaper than the base models of other devices, and most Chromebooks are cheaply built and harder to use -- that has to matter more than pure dollars, at least to a business.

Beyond the low cost, the other original attraction of Chromebooks is that they were web-only, so IT didn't have to worry about data leakage or device security. Everything was in the cloud, so a lost device simply needed to be deactivated, a stolen device had no data that might be sensitive, and a device could easily be moved from one worker to another in shift work, whether students in a class or retail associates at a store.

But Chromebooks that support Android apps have local storage, and they deal with apps that may or may not be managed -- exactly like smartphones, tablets, and computers. Yet they lack key security capabilities like encryption available in other computing devices. And they start getting complex enough to need on-site user support.

Once a Chromebook is converted into a keyboard-equipped tablet, why not get a tablet, tabtop, or laptop to begin with? That's the existential "why bother?" question that Android-capable Chrome OS raises.

Perhaps it makes sense for Google to rework Android into the rumored Andromeda operating system, which purportedly will draw some aspects of Chrome OS into it. Even if true, that's about next-gen Android, not the original Chrome OS promise.

Maybe Google's original web-only vision isn't tenable, and Google is now realizing that and planning a new course with the Andromeda project. Fine, but again the question remains: Why not focus on improving Android for tablets, tabtops, or laptops instead of fooling around with Android on Chrome OS?

We are talking about Google here, a company that fools around with a lot of things and sometimes lets staff stick with them in denial mode even after its executives have moved on to other fascinations. That may be what's happening with Chrome OS.

Whatever the situation at Google, it doesn't change the fact that Android on Chrome OS is an inferior combination to a pure Android device, and even more so to iOS, MacOS, and Windows devices. Maybe Android on Chrome can provide cheap computing training wheels for your kids, but otherwise, I don't get it.

Related articles

This story, "First look: Android on Chrome OS is a poor fit" was originally published by InfoWorld.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2
Bing’s AI chatbot came to work for me. I had to fire it.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon