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Google's Bigger Opportunity: Chrome OS, Not Android

Stocks in this article: GOOG LNVGY QCOM NVDA MSFT RIMM NOK

What can we gather from this? Let's start with Android.

Android is suitable for almost every kind of smartphone, with or without keyboard, because the screen will most likely be touch-enabled. Android is also suitable for all sorts of tablets, because touch is optimal when it is used in non-keyboard tablet mode.

But what about Android for the PC desktop, where touch is not really necessary? There seems to be no incremental benefit from bringing touch to the PC desktop. As a result, we are not likely to see "traditional" laptops (i.e., those with "normal" fixed laptop form factors) using Android. That's the province of Chrome OS, such as the laptop on which I am now typing this article.

This leaves us with one radical possibility, and that is Chrome OS on tablets and smartphones. Let's dissect this argument further:

First, tablets: We have already established that tablets need to have at least one touch mode. This could be Android -- or it could be a new version of Chrome OS that is also touch-optimized. However, if you want to create the "ultimate" convertible tablet/laptop with, say, a screen at least approximately 11 inches, then you also have a second option: A "traditional" laptop mode using a keyboard/trackpad, not requiring touch.

So here is what Google could do, in conjunction with its hardware partners such as Samsung in particular. Let's say you have an 11- or 12-inch tablet that can work in two modes:

(1) Mode 1 is Android, which uses the touchscreen but can also accommodate a keyboard.

(2) Mode 2 is Chrome OS, which doesn't need to use a touchscreen because it's optimized for small display targets ideal for trackpad/mouse.

One alternative here is that Mode 1 above could also be a new, touch-optimized version of Chrome OS. Either way, the good news here is that they could co-exist on the same CPU/GPU. For example, the Exynos from Samsung, the Snapdragon from Qualcomm (QCOM) or the Tegra 4 from Nvidia (NVDA) could make available dual-boot between Android and Chrome OS.

What about the smartphone?

For a non-keyboard smartphone, Chrome OS would have to be significantly re-written to become touch-optimized. This is entirely possible. If so, it could either be a pure Chrome OS smartphone or one that could dual-boot into Android, so that people could switch back and forward as they pleased or just stick to one, if that's what they prefer.

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