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How Chrome OS Management Will Improve Android

There is no urgency for Google to combine Chrome OS with Android. Apple (AAPL) has two operating systems -- Mac and iOS. Microsoft (MSFT) has three of them -- Windows 8, Windows 8 RT, and Windows Phone 8. Tell me again why Google somehow can't have two? Spread the risk, optimize for two different use cases.

Chrome OS and Android both share the same cloud infrastructure -- Gmail, Calendar, Docs, and so forth. It's one unified login. So there are already synergies. The dilemma was actually described the best by Apple CEO Tim Cook a year ago: You can try to merge a refrigerator with a toaster, but why? Yes, they both plug into the same wall outlet, but at some point when you merge two different products they don't perform two specialized functions as well.

Android's Product Management Problem

If you want to understand how the management from Chrome OS will improve Android, you have to understand one of Android's key weaknesses to date: Software upgrades.

No, I am not talking about any difficulty in performing upgrades. They are as easy to perform on Android as they are on any Microsoft and Apple product -- although not as elegant as on Chrome OS. I am talking about the fact that if you bought an Android smartphone or tablet in the last few years, you did not get software upgrades for very long.

Let's say you bought a Samsung Nexus S in the second quarter of 2011. That was the state of the art Android phone at the time. Are you running the latest version of Android today? No, you aren't. When Android got 4.2 in November 2012, you were left behind at 4.1 and you will never get 4.2 or above.

There are numerous examples of this in the Android world. How many Android smartphones or tablets that you bought in the last one to three years were running version 2.3, 3.0, 3.2 or 4.0 when you bought it, but will never get 4.0, 4.1 or 4.2 -- let alone the soon-to-arrive 5.0? The answer is: most of them.

In fact, in most cases Android smartphones have failed to stay "fresh" in terms of software for more than 18 months, plus or minus. There has been a tremendous short-sightedness in the Android food chain for keeping the customer happy over time.

One couldn't be faulted for believing the worst from Google, Samsung, HTC, LG, Motorola and all the rest: They just want to sell you a device that might get one software update, and then it's forgotten. Want the latest software? Buy a new device 18 months later. Or sometimes less.
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