Thought article : What would be the perfect computer in the Google world?

Shortly after the Google I/O conference of 2013, Google announced that they had activated over a billion Android devices since their inception in 2008. A platform, which had a lot of naysayers at the beginning, questioning its credibility and need for the market, quickly started growing initially at the lower end and slowly but surely giving an even competition to the iPhone. Today Android is seen as not only a major mobile platform but also a major computing platform, period.

While Android has been growing very quickly and has become a huge asset to Google, their web services have continued to be their biggest money-maker. Thus Google rightfully decided to invest in another platform - Chrome. Google has always viewed Chrome as a platform rather than being just a web browser not only for their services but also for the development of the web. Plenty of instances can be sighted which allude to this idea, from the lack of toolbar support in the early days to newer guidelines which don't allow extensions to have more than one functionality. To take this notion of web as a platform one step further, Google launched the Chromebook, a notebook which runs Chrome (and only Chrome). Chromebooks have been ridiculed for a long time and continue to be for anyone's use as a primary computing device, but have been proven to be rather successful in schools and colleges. Maintenance of a computer is the biggest problem there, and people's horrid experiences with Windows malware drew academic institutions to an alternative option, while being crippled in almost every other way, solved their biggest problem. Recent reports suggest that Chromebooks now account for 21% of netbook market share.

While both Android and arguably Chrome are great platforms on their own, any person in the know would suggest merging them to make a truly amazing product. The natural question that arises is "Where will that device fit in this Google world?". As Android phones have truly taken the world by storm capturing all price levels in the market, Android tablets haven't yet seen such a large scale success. The argument for Android tablets is still "If you can't afford the iPad..". Android tablets have a huge market share at the low end, but the barreling effect we saw with phones hasn't occurred yet with tablets. What could be the reason?

The biggest difference here is that no matter how much we all would like to sing praises about the tablet revolution, the current fact of the market is that the tablet market still hasn't become a commoditized market. The reason is dead simple-It can't do everything a regular computer can do, but still costs almost as much as a regular computer. People with disposable wealth have bought it and continue buying it, thus making it a profitable business. Let me reiterate my point here - Some people are fine with the limited functionality that the tablet offers, but for it to be a commoditized product and to ultimately bring it to the level of the phone market, the tablet should become the major computing device for the majority of the market.

So how is Google supposed to build a be-all-end-all computer in this mess? Chromebooks have been proven successful at the lower end of the market, but the value to money ratio goes down very quickly as we start climbing up the price ladder.

So here is my idea: Making a computer with the form factor of a Chromebook, which runs Android. Not just Android apps, but the entire operating system. Give it a slight premium price tag over Chromebooks. Before you start bashing me for saying something which totally negates entire argument above, here me out.

Android by its very nature is very close to a desktop operating system. While having the advantages of the desktop OS like an open file system and a user accessible task manager, it also has the huge gains that come with it being a mobile OS, like reliability, being malware-free, the installation of applications from a governed app store, etc. An Android notebook would not only have access to all of these Android apps, but also the full experience of the Chrome platform. Apple has been hard at work to take OS X to the app model, but for Google doing this on the software side is almost as easy as flipping a switch - Make Chrome extensions work seamlessly on Android. This device wouldn't be finished at launch, it will definitely have naysayers, but it will at least be a step in the right direction. It wouldn't be burdened by a legacy like Windows 8 was. It would essentially be a fresh start. Google could leverage the rapid third party development going on in Android and Chrome to give this product a head start. The unfortunate problem that Apple has in doing this is that they cannot enter the market with an unfinished product, while Microsoft completely botched it in its attempt of doing this by compromising their ultra-productive operating system.

Google can give a shot at this, because they would have a huge OEM support right at launch, and not a lot to lose.