A few months ago, Google put the head of its Chrome business, Sundar Pichai, in charge of Android as well. At the time, there was speculation that Android would become more Chrome-like, perhaps even running Chrome apps directly. Eventually, the thinking went, the company would combine them into a single platform.
But Ben Thompson at Stratechery has another interesting theory: Google's long bet is on Chrome. Android was a hedge, and it's becoming a lot less important to the company, particularly for smartphones. From here on, most of Google's platform innovation will happen on Chrome, not Android.
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The most recent bit of evidence for this came at the recent Google event in San Francisco, where the company introduced the new Nexus 7 tablet and the Chromecast, a $35 device for streaming Internet video to a TV set using a mobile device or PC as the remote control. Google also announced Android 4.3, the latest update to "Jelly Bean," but most of the devices featured were tablets, not smartphones, and the most interesting new features -- like restricted user profiles and support for the latest version of the Open Graphics Library for 3D gaming -- make a lot more sense on tablets.
To Thompson's points, I'd add that the fact that it's called the Chromecast, rather than (say) the Android TV Slinger, is a strong indication of the platform direction Google's taking.
Android is perfectly capable of running in low-powered, wireless-connected, embedded devices; in fact, a couple years ago at Google I/O, the company unveiled a whole initiative designed to push Android into embedded devices and home automation. But when it was time to create this type of device itself, Google based it on a simplified version of Chrome instead. Under the Chrome OS name, Chrome is an embedded, Linux-based operating system, but under the Chrome name it's also a browser that runs on almost every platform. Cross-platform wins.