In the ecosystem war, Google has a trojan horse

Both The Verge and now Arstechnica have touched on the coming ecosystem segregation between Apple and Google. Andrew Cunningham at Ars writes:

At or around the time the Android L release comes out this fall, this means your phone and your Chromebook are going to be able to share even more stuff than they already do. If you have your phone with you, it can unlock your Chromebook (and if you have your smartwatch with you, it can unlock your phone). If you get a call or a text or your battery is running low, you'll be told about it on your Chromebook. Some Android apps are even going to be able to run in Chrome OS, though Google didn't talk much about the technical details.

It was all very similar to the "Continuity" feature that Apple's Craig Federighi showed off on the same stage in the same room three weeks before (at least both companies can still share a conference hall). When iOS 8and OS X Yosemite arrive in the fall, AirDrop will be able to move files between iOS devices and Macs. "Handoff" can send e-mails, webpages, and even files from iCloud-enabled applications on iOS to their counterparts in OS X (or vice-versa). You can receive texts alongside iMessages in the Messages app, and you can make and receive phone calls from your Mac even if your phone is in another room.

This isn't about which company is copying from which—this kind of integration is a logical next step for both Apple and Google after years of moving various operating systems and services closer and closer together. This is about ecosystem lock-in. All of these features sound like great, logical ways to extend both companies' platforms, since you can often assume that someone using an Apple phone will be using an Apple computer. They're also going to make it harder than ever to extricate yourself from a given company's ecosystem once you've become embedded in it.

This is a great piece, and the full thing is certainly worth your time, by I think Andrew missed something important. Google's secret weapon in this ecosystem war is the Chrome browser; it's a trojan horse into Windows and OS X that allows Google to get some (perhaps not all, but enough) of those phone-PC sync features on competing operating systems. I already use MightyText and PushBullet to make Chrome on OS X sync texts and notifications with my Nexus 5; when and if Google starts natively supporting that functionality in Chrome...well, that's when things really get interesting.

After all, it's not like Microsoft or Apple can block Chrome without angering a decent percentage of their users, so Google already has all the pieces in place to make a major cross-platform ecosystem play. Microsoft needs you to use Windows, and Apple needs you to use OS X...but Google doesn't necessarily care if you use Chrome OS, as long as you're using their browser.

As things are right now, there's no reason your Android phone notifications can't show up in Chrome, and there's no reason SMS and even phone calls couldn't show up in Hangouts. In theory, you can get most of Apple's Continuity functionality with whatever device you want, as long as you're using Chrome. In practice, you can get most of the way there today - you just have to use third-party apps to do it - but at the very least, those apps serve as a proof-of-concept. The will seems to be there, as well - Google Now, in a limited form, is already available on OS X and Windows - you can't say that about Siri or Cortana.

Of course, things will work better if you're all-in with Google, the same way things work better if you're all in with Apple or Microsoft - but I things will work well enough with Android and Chrome that users may not see much of a benefit in committing fully to Google's competitors.

Originally posted on writing about tech