Talking tech since 2003

On Monday, Taiwan’s Commercial Times financial newspaper reported that Google was getting ready to sell a line of 12.85-inch touchscreen Chromebooks. Now, don’t get me wrong — keyboard/mouse/tablet hybrids are almost certainly the future of computing. Even Microsoft seems to know that. But what makes this decision really bizarre is the fact that the company already has a very, very capable touch-based operating system running on millions of devices around the world: Android.

You know, the mobile OS market share leader. That little guy.

Most of the features that Chromebooks tout — quick system resumes, great battery life — Android is more than capable of handling with the right hardware. I can carry my sleeping Nexus 7 around all day with only a tiny hit to my battery life. If I need to use it, I press the power button and it wakes instantly. And about that battery life; it beats the six hours that Samsung’s Chromebook advertises. And I’m speaking about a tablet with no keyboard dock. Did you know that the ASUS Transformer Infinity tablet boasts almost 14 hours of battery life with its keyboard accessory? That is unheard of for any laptop, much less a Chromebook.

Android is also built to be touched. That is the operating system’s focus. Chrome OS is built to be used with a keyboard and a mouse. Slapping on touch just to have touch isn’t going to make the operating system any better. If anything, it’ll draw comparison’s to Windows RT, which some critics have chastised for being a keyboard/mouse OS at heart despite its efforts. And even if Google manages to work some useful touch features into Chrome OS, it’s still going to have to convince developers to build touch-enabled Web apps, since Chrome OS can’t run any apps of its own.

Oh, speaking of apps, do you know which Google OS can run apps, and lots of them? Android. Video apps. Music apps. Games. Business tools. You name it, there’s a good chance that the Play Store has an app for it. Android’s app market is second only to Apple’s App Store, but it’s gaining quickly, and the “iOS first” attitude held by many app developers is starting to fade out. Building a touchscreen laptop around Android would automatically provide access to over 700,000 apps. Apps that can run without an Internet connection. And do you know what else Android can run? Chrome.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not totally opposed to the idea of Chromebooks. I think there is a market for an inexpensive, yet capable “browser in a box” for those who don’t need anything beyond a Web browser. But I think Google is missing a serious opportunity to compete with Windows RT and Windows 8 — and really all PC makers — by passing over Android in this instance. I know that I’m dying for a really well-done Nexus tablet/laptop combination, and I can’t be the only one.

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