Google Likely to Replace Android With Chrome

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The biggest smartphone technology event in a decade may be just one year away. Google (GOOG) appears to be working hard to replaceAndroid with its current PC desktop/laptop operating system, Chrome OS-- commonly referred to as "Chromebook" and "Chromebox" products.

These new smartphones and tablets would be called "Chromephones" and "Chromepads." The Chromephones would launch around the middle of2014.

This replacement of Android in favor of Chrome OS should not be asurprise to readers of this column, as I first predicted it, in thisarticle, two years ago.

Clearly, I was too optimistic about the timing. That said, myfundamental prediction remains, on an amended time schedule.

So, why would Google do this? There are two basic reasons:

1. Architecture / technology:

When you look at Google's product and service portfolio, it'sfilled with elegant cloud and HTML technologies. Whether Chrome orcloud apps, it's all very seamless and elegant.

The one wart under Google's foot that's bothering the decision-makersin Mountain View is Android. Android is Java and it's old-world.Intellectual property disputes with Oracle ( ORCL)? Hey, even BlackBerry ( BBRY)recently abandoned Java.

On the other hand, Chrome OS represents Google's pure vision of whatan operating system should be. It's simple, super-quick and secure.Google is 100% in control of it.

2. Business model and industry structure:

Everyone knows Android has become sort of a mess. Google wouldnever admit it, because it's largely its own fault. They would saythat Android is 100% open, so of course, there will be massivefragmentation -- Amazon ( AMZN), Samsung, Facebook ( FB) -- because everyone is freeto modify Android any way they want.

That's all true, but behind that happy-face facade, Google also isn'thappy with this situation. Just contrast it with Chrome OS, whereGoogle is in 100% control, and every device is 100% consistent fromone PC to the next. It doesn't matter whether it's Acer, Samsung,Lenovo or HP ( HPQ) -- they are all identical in terms of the software.

Speaking of software, all Chrome OS devices get updatessimultaneously, right away. Google pushes these software updates, andthere is nothing Samsung, Acer, Lenovo or HP can do about it -- to stopor delay. Even better, there is nothing Verizon ( VZ) can do about it,either. Google is in 100% control.

In contrast, Android is the industry's laughing stock in terms ofconsistency. Compared to Apple's ( AAPL) iOS, Microsoft's ( MSFT) Windows Phone, and BlackBerry ( BBRY), the Android experience differs from device to device, and that's ultimately hurting Google, in terms of customer satisfaction.Samsung, HTC, Verizon, AT&T ( T) -- they all have their fingers incustomizing Android, and it's a jarring experience from a consumerperspective, switching from device to device. That is, if your Android device gets any operating system updates at all.

The obvious solution: Google replaces Android with Chrome OS.

There is no huge technological difficulty for Google to replaceAndroid with Chrome OS. Google already makes Chrome OS devicesitself, running on Verizon.

It's 100% obvious to me what Google's next step is in expanding ChromeOS: First, it will add Chrome OS tablets -- Chromepads. These willbe both stand-alone, largely similar to the iPad, as well as"laptop-tablet convertibles," similar to so many Windows 8 PCs.

The Google Pixel laptop sets the stage here, as the first Chrome OStouchscreen device, running on Verizon. In addition, it's alsoGoogle's first PC that is not made in conjunction with Samsung, Acer,Lenovo or HP. Google simply worked directly with a manufacturer inTaiwan/China.

There is little doubt that Google will release multiple Chrome OStablet devices already in 2013. This will establish Chrome OS as acredible "touch only" operating system. Seeing as the Web itself isnot optimized for finger-touch -- rather, for mouse/touchpad on a PC-- this would also entail optimizing the Web experience forfinger-touch, with large touch-targets.

Google, of course, is the one company in the world that can ensurethat this happens to the Web.

Once such a finger-touch optimization has taken place inside Chrome OSand on the Web experience, Google would be ready to launch its firstChrome OS smartphone -- "Chromephone." This likely takes us tomid-2014.

In launching a Chromephone, Google can give all of its previousAndroid partners the finger. Unlike Android, which is provided underan open source license, Google does not risk having the likes ofSamsung, HTC and all the others modifying Chrome OS.

For the Chromephone, Google would simply do what it just did with thePixel Chromebook: Go directly to the manufacturers in Taiwan andChina and create its own hardware label. It's not even clear thatGoogle would bother calling its wholly owned subsidiary Motorola ( MOT)forthis task.

Stepping back for a second, this in-house hardware is, of course, whatApple and BlackBerry have been doing all along, since their very firstdays in the business. Google and Microsoft were the ones who workedwith hardware OEMs as in the Windows PC days, having the likes ofSamsung and Acer do the hardware.

Microsoft has never fully denied that it's working on its ownsmartphone. Despite its chummy relationship with Nokia, rumors havebeen abuzz for approximately one year, that Microsoft too will startmaking its own smartphones.

Remember how much of a surprise Microsoft's Surface tablet was when itwas introduced in June last year? Nothing about that product hadleaked beforehand. Of course, unless Microsoft outright acquiresNokia, it will soon launch its own Surface phone as well.

This raises at least two questions:

1. If Google makes its own Chrome OS smartphones, would that also meanthat Samsung and all the others are excluded?

Of course not! Google would love as many hardware partners aspossible, just like Chrome OS laptop and desktop PCs. What Googledoesn't want is software fragmentation. Putting Chrome OS on thephone solves this problem.

Samsung can play, but with a lot less power than it has in the Androidworld. It's like being back making Windows PCs again. Or, for thatmatter, Chrome OS PCs.

Nothing wrong with that, of course. Perhaps that's the way it shouldbe. It may be the only form of stable equilibrium in the OS business.

2. What about Android?

Let me be clear: I am not saying that Google will abandon Android. Whywould it? There is no upside in that. What Google will do is shift the emphasis to a much better operating system -- Chrome OS --that will also provide 100% consistency from device to device.

Google will continue to develop Android, both for itself in the formof Nexus and other Nexus-equivalent devices. It will work withpartners, such as Samsung and Facebook. Yet others, such as Amazon,will completely customize Android beyond recognition. In other words,just like today.

So what? Why should we care?

When Google adds Chrome OS to its tablet and smartphone repertoire,its market power increases materially. Chrome OS is fundamentally abetter OS than Android -- more elegant, more secure and faster.Beyond the strict technical merits, it will also enable Google tocontrol a 100% consistent experience across all devices, regardless ofSamsung's or Verizon's wishes.

Google's upcoming moves to gradually replace Android with Chrome OS ismore than a watershed in the mobile computing market. It's a Tsunami.

At the time of publication the author was longGOOG,AAPL, BBRY, NOK and FB.

This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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