In light of the screenshots of the new Chrome OS, I figured that it’d be worth publicly positing, that if given the opportunity again, Google would probably have chosen to make Chrome, and not Android, their mobile OS.
Android has recently rocketed past iOS in volume, though not in profitability. Google gives Android away for free, and counts on licensing the OS to OEMs en masse in order to get its foot in the door and steal market share from Apple. In turn, Google makes its money from users defaulting to Gmail, Google Maps, and other Google services – not to mention the Play Store, itself. On the desktop front, Google has pushed its cloud-based Chromebooks, which mimic a desktop computing experience. And if the new screenshots are any indication, Chrome looks gorgeous.
However, Google – like Facebook – faces a fundamental problem. It is, at its core, an advertising company, that earns the overwhelming majority of its revenues from serving up display ads on searches. Android is an app-based platform, which means that a user does not typically lean on the web browser like they would on a typical computer. This means that Google, like it otherwise would with its Chrome web browser, knows very little about how people use its apps. And unless an app maker sign up for Google AdSense, Mountain View cannot show them tailored ads. In this way, Android is a doubly-fragmented operating system. It’s stretched across a myriad of OEMs, and offers little in the way of user tracking or marketing.
Chrome, on the other hand, presents a different dynamic. Because the whole operating system is effectively a glorified web browser, Google can track – and present ads to – its users, since it knows their browsing habits. The user experience is, unlike Android or iOS, not divided by the lines between apps.
The logic is, therefore, that if Google had the chance – or has the chance, especially considering Samsung’s alarming rise – it might seek to tightly integrate Android’s app sensibility with the tracking capabilities offered by Chrome OS. Whether this manifests itself as web apps – let’s hope not – or mandated AdSense integration, or even the wholesale transition to Chrome OS, one can expect that Google will try its hardest to hop from our desktops to our pockets. Sponsored mobile ads, anyone?