Apple, you are done…Microsoft, your dominance is near the end and Google, welcome aboard: how Android won the game, via Chrombooks

Change. It is a difficult thing to go through, but, it is inevitable. Nearly thirty years ago, CP/M was THE operating system and 8080/Z80 based computers were THE thing. I remember thinking they’d be around FOREVER. They didn’t make it past 1986, when IBM began to take over the personal computer industry. And, so, we are near that crossroad today.

Google has announced that Android apps will be available ‘soon’ for ChromeOS. That is, as they say, a game changer.

Why?

Well Chromebooks are inexpensive. Small computers using ChromeOS are inexpensive and do not need Wintel level power to do things.  Android apps, likewise, are mostly designed to run on cheap smartphones with power that comes close to that of a cheap desktop or laptop computer.  Combine the two and…WOW…that is a game changer, folks.

A friend of mine (one day, Sam, we will meet in person) has been touting these Chromebook things for a few years now.  I’ve always kind of poo-poo’ed them as being a browser on a minimalist Linux.  However, you put Android abilities in there and…BOOM!   A real challenge to Wintel.

Chromebooks already outsell the Macintosh. It will be a while before they supplant Windows, but, I think the writing is on the wall.  I am a die hard Windows fan. I’ve loved the environment and, later, the operating system since the 2.1 days. But, change is inevitable and Microsoft knows this. Pretty much the only product they still sell that is not completely available on other platforms is the Visual Studio development tool suite. And, I think, it won’t be long and you will be using that on Android. On a Chromebook. 

So, how is Google doing this? Merging the two operating systems?

No. No merging.  No AppV or Virtual machines either. NO, they are using containers that have the Android framework embedded in them.  This is a quite clever approach as it not only allows the app to ‘see’ the underlying filesystem and hardware it is running on, it also means apps can talk to each other and that is HUGE.  What good is a photo editor that cannot get to the photos?

It also means the applications run AT FULL SPEED.  Think about that.  Now the Android GAME world is open to ChromeOS.  In fact ALL Android apps will work this way, no developer changes required. Candy Crush Jelly Donuts and Coffee will run, full speed, full screen, on a cheap $120 (US) Chromebook just as well as it does on that Moto G.  This, my friends, is not only cool, but awesome.

I am no fan of Google, but this is a clever and very smart way to bring Android into the home in something other than a phone.

Now, I need to buy myself a Chromebook, get a good book on Java development and retool myself.  Apple, you need to get a clue. Your walled garden is about to be overtaken by weeds when your gardeners leave for greener pastures.  From Google.

You can read more about it here.

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Are Chromebooks worth the money?

So the Chromebooks (UGH, that is the lamest name in tech) have finally hit the market.  On paper, these notebooks seem very appealing: a lightweight OS, quick startup and you never have to worry about installing applications.  Great, right?  Nope.  Why?  The price.  These things cost more than a real laptop with a real operating system and real storage.  For the money, these things are a major dud.  They lack local storage and, to be, you know, useful, you must always be connected to the net. 

Samsung and Acer have both introduced these crippled laptops with the cheapest starting at $349 for the WiFi only version. 3G service is provided by Verizon with 100mb of data per month, for two years, being free. Additional data plans are available. 

At $499 for the high end Chromebook from Samsung, the value is simply not there.

A recent tear down of one of them reveals netbook like innards.  And that is the big problem: these things are nothing more than netbooks in full size laptop cases and they do not run a useful OS.  You get a Linux kernal with a browser bolted on to it.  No local storage and when not connected, not much functionality.

Google, purveyors of all things Chrome, says that offline functionality is coming soon in the form of Google Apps and there are a few ‘downloadable’ apps for Chromium, but it will not be like the traditional operating system’s applications.

I don’t know, maybe I am being closed minded or short sighted, but, for the money, I just don’t see the value here.  If Google really wants these things to take, they should give them away or charge less than a hundred bucks for them and make it up with ads, since that is the ultimate goal here…to sell ads.  Google’s business is NOT browsers, operating systems or even search. It is advertising.  That’s it. Search and etc are the vehicles they use to deliver the ads.  They are not the altruistic company many think they are, no, they are an advertising agency and nothing more.  They are the NASCAR of the computer world: entertaining, feisty, flashy, loud and one gigantic billboard.

You can check out the hardware (as well as order one) here.

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