Last month brought news that Google's Android chief Andy Rubin decided to step down from his post and take up another project within the Google collective. In his place would be Sundar Pichai, the head of Google's Chrome division that includes the web browser and operating system. He would helm both divisions, Google said, while Rubin goes off to conjure up something new.
This naturally helped fuel rumors that Android and Chrome would eventually become one Spice Girls-style -- rumors backed by code explorers who have spotted references to Android in the Chrome OS code.
Yet despite the shift in Google management, Chairman Eric Schmidt later said that the company has no plans to merge the two platforms, a decision the company defended when Microsoft released Windows 8 last fall, saying that you can't have one OS for different form factors. "[Android and Chrome are] certainly going to remain separate for a very long time because they solve different problems," he said.
So why are we seeing reports of a possible laptop with Android in the works? The news stems from DigiTimes, which claims that "Androidbooks" may march into the market at the end of 3Q13 or the beginning of 4Q13. Having both Androidbooks and Chromebooks would seem to be a little contradictory, right? Not exactly.
The concept isn't far-fetched. Combine a tablet like the Nexus 10 and a Bluetooth keyboard, and you have a makeshift Android-based laptop anyway. Throw in a Bluetooth mouse, and you definitely have a super-thin notebook (netbook, whatever) capable of running locally installed native apps. Chrome OS heavily depends on Web-based apps and the Internet whereas Android does not.
Of course, there's also the collaboration between Intel and Google to bring Android on x86-based Atom processors. The collaboration was announced back in September 2011, and the Intel Atom x86 image for Android 4.2 "Jelly Bean" was released last year. In fact, the $249 Asus Fonepad is the first low-cost Android tablet to use an x86-based chip, and the first Atom-powered smartphone was the XOLO X900 sold in India.
That said, it wouldn't be surprising to see Android-based Ultrabooks this fall alongside notebooks powered by ARM-based chips like Nvidia's Tegra 4 or Samsung's Exynos 5. These will undoubtedly cost less than Windows 8 solutions given that Android is an open-source platform, requiring no licensing fee. Even more, Google has a larger app and media library thanks to Google Play.
With Sundar Pichai helming both Chrome and Android, it's possible Google will offer a more unified portfolio of laptops while keeping both separate. It will be interesting to see if this rumor actually plays out later this year. Nexusbook anyone?