The Andromeda strain: A new Google OS?

By Jos ยท 6 replies
Sep 27, 2016
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  1. Veteran fans of thriller author Michael Crichton may recall that his career kicked into high gear with the 1969 release of a novel entitled “The Andromeda Strain.” The book described the impact of a deadly microbe strain delivered to earth from space via a military satellite.

    Next week in San Francisco, Google is heavily rumored to announce the release of a new strain of operating system codenamed “Andromeda.” The new OS is expected to combine elements of Chrome with Android. Unlike current efforts to bring support for Android apps into Chrome, however, the new Andromeda OS is expected to bring some of the desktop-like capabilities of Chrome into Android to form a super OS that could work across smartphones, tablets, and notebook-style form factors.

    Though details remain sketchy, the new OS is expected to offer true multi-modal windowing, as well as a file system and other typical accoutrements for a desktop-style operating system. In essence, this means that Google’s next OS—expected to be released late this year or sometime next year—will be able to compete directly with Windows and macOS.

    On many levels, the development of a single Google OS is an obvious one. In fact, I (and many others) thought it was something they needed to do a long time ago. Despite that, its impact is bound to be profound, and cause a fair amount of stress and, yes, strain, for users, device makers and developers alike.

    For consumers and other end users, Andromeda will first appear as yet another OS option, because Google isn’t likely to immediately drop standalone versions of Android or Chrome OS after the announcement or release of Andromeda. Over time, as the transition to Andromeda is complete, those potential concerns will fade away, and consumers, in theory at least, should get a consistent experience across devices of all shapes and sizes. This would be a clear benefit for users, because they should have access to a single set of applications, consistent access to all their data, and all the other obvious benefits of combining two choices into one.

    At the same time, however, the transition could end up taking several years, which is bound to cause confusion and concern for end users. Trying to choose which devices and operating systems to use, particularly as device lifetimes lengthen, could prove to be frustrating. Plus, if Google does move away from Chrome, as some have suggested, existing Chromebooks become relatively useless.

    For device makers, Andromeda could represent an exciting new opportunity to sell new form factors, such as clamshell, convertible, or detachable notebooks running the new OS. They may also be able to create true “pocket computers” that come in a smartphone form factor, but offer support for desktop monitors and other peripherals, similar to Microsoft’s Continuum feature for Windows 10 Mobile.

    The launch of a new OS from a major industry player is always fraught with potential concerns, but the merger of two existing options (including the most widely used OS in the world) into a single new one heightens those concerns exponentially.

    Initially, however, Andromeda is going to be more of a challenge for device makers because of their need to deal with product categories like Chromebooks, that could potentially go away. Plus, like Microsoft, Google seems to be moving aggressively towards doing its own branded hardware products, and that takes away potential market opportunities for some of its partners. At the same time, the launch of a new OS with new capabilities and new hardware requirements seems like the perfect time for Google to make a serious play into their own branded devices.

    For developers, Andromeda will undoubtedly prove to be a strain for a longer period of time because of their likely need to rewrite or at least rework their applications to take full advantage of the new features and capabilities that will inevitably come with a new OS. Plus, any confusion that consumers face about which version of the different Google OS’s to use will negatively impact future app sales and, potentially, development.

    The launch of a new OS from a major industry player is always fraught with potential concerns, but the merger of two existing options (including the most widely used OS in the world) into a single new one heightens those concerns exponentially. As with Mr. Crichton’s book, the initial drama and tension are bound to be high, but eventually, I think we’ll see a positive ending.

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  2. psycros

    psycros TS Evangelist Posts: 1,869   +1,288

    Why would Chromebooks "go away"? You honestly think that the people who wrote ChromeOS won't be able to make the new hybrid OS run on hardware that THEY provide the reference for? There's literally no basis for this bizarre assumption.
  3. MilwaukeeMike

    MilwaukeeMike TS Evangelist Posts: 2,887   +1,223

    It sounds like they're making this out to be some big new cool important thing. This is what they should have done years ago. Microsoft knew enough to make their phone work like their windows - they put tiles on both and allow apps on the PC. (Too bad no one bought the phone).

    Why Google didn't do this I have no idea, but this isn't new... it's actually pretty late.
  4. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 1,562   +711

    Because if Google decides to do away with Chrome, a Chromebook would be fairly useless... It's not like the people who make chromebooks and the people responsible for the new OS are different companies.... They're BOTH Google...

    I suspect it would just be a gradual phasing out though - chromebooks have generally been fairly cheap and meant for lower-end use... in a few years, current models will be obsolete anyways and this will all be moot...
  5. YES, we need a new mainstream OS
  6. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 1,562   +711

    Why do we need one? So we can be twice as confused as we already are?

    I remember when IBM thought they could make their own OS.... OS2 Warp was just flying off shelves....
  7. Bruce Fraser

    Bruce Fraser TS Rookie

    The article mentions Windows and MacOS. I expect Linux will also suffer from this; perhaps even more, being so fragmented that it has never caught on as a mainstream OS.

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