Google plans to fold its Chrome operating system for personal computers into its Android mobile operating system, according to people familiar with the matter, a sign of the growing dominance of mobile computing.
Google engineers have been working for roughly two years to combine the operating systems and have made progress recently, two of the people said. The company plans to unveil its new, single operating system in 2017, but expects to show off an early version next year, one of the people said.
Android is the world’s most widely used operating system, powering more than one billion phones and other devices made by dozens of companies. Chrome powers personal computers, most often laptops, called Chromebooks. They are niche players, accounting for less than 3% of PCs according to research firm IDC.
The move is a long-awaited recognition that the different computing approaches embodied by Android and Chrome are no longer relevant to Google. Chrome OS was Google’s effort to bring the Web and browser-centric experience to more devices, encouraging users to access all software and apps through its Chrome browser on cheap, stripped-down laptops.
Android was an almost retro approach within the company because it focused on devices that only worked when software and apps were downloaded onto them.
Google didn’t know which approach would succeed, so it pursued both, and healthy internal debates ensued. But as mobile device and app usage soared, Android prevailed.