Google’s recent announcement that all Chromebooks will now support the full range of Android apps available on its Play Store has been largely ignored by most. But it has the potential to fundamentally change the mobile computing space and create a new way of doing things.
The desktop computer is on its way out . The once ubiquitous device is now hard to spot outside of office cubicles and the desks of enthusiasts. It has been clear for a while now that the future of computing is mobile. However, mobile computing, despite all of its rapid advances over the past two decades, is still in a state of flux.
While hardware always takes a while to evolve, software usually tends to point the way in times of rapid progress. Microsoft has been attempting to deal with the evolution of computing paradigms by stuffing its Windows operating system into ever smaller boxes. Its attempt at unifying its desktop and mobile operating systems sounds great on paper, but has met with limited success in the market and is still patchy in implementation. Apple, meanwhile, has kept mobile and PC distinct. iOS seems to be the focus for now, with updates trickling down to OS X every once in a while.
Google’s ChromeOS is the unheralded dark horse in this race. While the big two have stubbornly refused to embrace radical change, Google has gone ahead and completely reimagined how users interact with a PC – jettisoning all the cruft and keeping just the browser. However, the crucial drawback with this vision of computing was that it required an always-on Internet connection to be of any use. With the addition of Android apps, Chromebooks have instantly gained a massive library of offline productivity and entertainment apps, not to mention bolstered their online capabilities no end. And of course, Chromebooks are significantly cheaper and less bulkier compared to most other laptops, owing to their lower requirements in terms of processing power.
ChromeOS’ simplicity is a double-edged sword. Chromebooks will hardly be able to perform some of the advanced tasks that a Mac or Windows laptop can, but crucially, thanks to its browser-and-apps-only interface, ChromeOS is guaranteed to be easy to pick up and start using. And considering the learning curve involved with moving to another system is what kept most people locked into their OS, this is an ace in the sleeve for Google.
In an era in which the browser is the center of all things, ChromeOS could become the perfect bridge between PC and mobile, with its newly-acquired collection of Android apps filling in the gaps wherever required. Consider that you can now edit Microsoft Office documents, play Fifa 17, stream Netflix and even muck about on Tinder or book an Uber on your laptop, and the Chromebook suddenly goes from a low-frills option to the most sensible option.
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