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June 28, 2011
Some things in life are plainly dichotomous: Mac or PC, Republican or Democrat, single malt or blended whiskey. But are you an Android person or a Chrome person? Google has created an interesting problem for the consumer market by developing two distinct and different mobile platforms. Chrome will be hitting the market any day now, while Android has been courting the public for quite some time. But when it’s time for you to decide, would you buy an Android netbook or a Chromebook? More importantly, what is Google’s endgame?
Android netbooks exist today in the form of an Android tablet and a separate keyboard. But standard-style Android netbooks are coming. Digitimes reports quite a few vendors are gearing up to create ARM-based netbooks that will run Android. Vendors were once gun-shy about developing such a netbook after some underpowered retail devices failed to impress, but thanks to increases in ARM CPU capabilities and the maturation of Android, vendors have come around to the idea of an Android netbook.
According to Digitimes, a 13-inch Asus netbook running nVidia’s Tegra ARM-based CPU will be one of the first out the gate. Other vendors including Samsung and Acer are planning similar offerings using Texas Instruments and Qualcomm chips (even though they’re also planning Chromebooks). Such a device would be bigger than the 11-inch MacBook Air that I work on every day. With a 13-inch screen, Android could be running on a higher resolution than it was designed for. Can apps, or, better yet, will developers take advantage of such real estate? Or will an Android netbook be just a fancy yet limited web browser?
If apps are your thing, you might want to stick with Android. But if you’re a true-blue web dude you might want to go with a Chromebook. At first glance, though, it can be a tough call: both support Flash; both support tabbed browsing; both provide access to GMail, YouTube and Facebook. Both even run Angry Birds. So, what’s the real selling point for a Chromebook? It’s a question worth asking.
Put simply, Chrome brings with it implications beyond the mobile world. It’s not all about Chromebooks — Google is thinking big with Chrome, and with the 100 percent cloud-based model, Google is reaching into enterprise, large-scale computing and even virtualization territory. But when it comes to the consumer marketplace, it’s going to be awfully confusing having two Google-tagged OEM devices, sporting either Android or Chrome OS.
The whispers of a Chrome-based tablet muddies the waters further to the point where it’s difficult to determine Google’s real mobile strategy. But maybe Google is big enough to drive two horses into the race, regardless of popularity or adoption. Maybe Google will merge the projects, who knows? But it’s something the channel should be aware of when guiding users into mobile ecosystems, especially with the Google’s announced Chromebook for Businesses plan.
My advice? Stick with the Chromebook for work and the Android netbook for play. Peripheral attachments and a true-web platform are Chrome’s strong points.
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