Contrary to popular opinion, Android isn’t the first time Google has dabbled in peddling an operating system.
An oft forgotten part of its repertoire is the Chrome operating system, which it tried to push to make Chromebooks – low cost netbooks that ran what was essentially Google’s Chrome browser, and all its associated cloud based apps.
The limited success of its Chrome OS venture made a number of sources speculate that Google would try to assimilate its features into the far more mainstream Android OS. It made sense, considering that Android was hardly a runaway hit in the tablet market, unlike its huge success among smartphones from the world over.
However, in an interview with Tech Radar, Google’s vice president of engineering, Linus Upson says, “We are not working on a Chrome OS tablet. We have our hands full in delivering a wonderful experience on desktop and laptop and the Android team have their hands full bringing a great experience on phone and tablet. But the two teams are working together even more closely.”
He went on to address the fact that different platforms need operating systems tailor made for them, by saying, “Everyone has two different solutions for these problems. Apple has Mac OS and iOS, Microsoft has two – they just happen to call them both Windows – and at Google we do the same.”
What Upson says certainly makes sense, considering how Google’s biggest competitors – Microsoft and Apple, have been dealing with their own products.
Apple most certainly has done a remarkable job in popularizing its iOS platform for its series of iPad tablets and iPhones. But it hasn’t been carried away enough for it to overhaul its Macintosh OSX operating system for its Macbooks and iMacs.
Microsoft itself has been more careful than one would expect with its ambitious Windows 8 project. It has tie-ups lined up with the likes of OEM partners such as Dell and HP (along with its more recent strategic partner, Nokia) for Windows 8 tablets that will launch by the end of 2012. In fact, Dell’s first Windows 8 tablet, named Latitude, has already had its specs sheet leaked to the public.
But that doesn’t mean that Microsoft has done away with its core target market – that of PCs and notebooks worldwide. The tile based UI (that Microsoft calls Metro) was first implemented in Windows Phone 7 and above and now will be the default user interface for PC users as well. However, there will be the default Windows Aero UI (albeit in a simplified, lighter avatar) beneath the flashy Metro tiles that will let old school Windows users adapt to the learning curve a little more easily.
Microsoft has previous though. It tried introducing Windows 7 to a number of tablets such as the Acer Iconia W500, the Viewsonic Viewpad, the Lenovo Ideapad Slate, and many more. All of them had one thing in common – unusable UIs (thanks to Windows 7 being meant to be used with a mouse, and not the tip of a finger) and negligible sales, at best. The astonishing botch-up that was the Windows 7 tablet made Microsoft completely overhaul its design ethic, and come up with the far more dynamic and aesthetically pleasing Windows 8.
Google may have good reason to consider alternative strategies for its 2 ailing operating systems – the Chrome OS and Android (for tablets). However, a simple mix and match has proved to be ill advised so far, and probably will continue being so in the future.