Google has sold 500k Chromebooks, and why we don't want to see Android merge with Chrome OS

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Google has sold 500k Chromebooks, and why we don't want to see Android merge with Chrome OS
Last week, the head of Chrome at Google, Sundar Pichai, took over as the head of Android, when Andy Rubin stepped down. Android has been an extremely successful platform, as has the Chrome web browser, but not surprisingly Chrome OS has not been quite as popular. In fact, a new report says that Google has sold fewer than 500,000 Chromebooks so far (and, full disclosure: one of those purchases was by me.)

The report from DigiTimes was told by a source that Google and Acer have said Chromebooks are selling "better than expected", and that the various models have total sales of less than 500,000 units. It's unclear if this includes the 2,000 schools that have adopted Chromebooks, or the various business partners that Google has for the platform.

Those numbers put Chrome OS at less than 1% of the notebook market, but that doesn't really tell the whole story. Chromebooks first hit the retail market in mid-2011, but the models offered were overpriced. The Samsung Series 3 Chromebook was the first to sell for $249, and was released in October 2012. So, it's fairly safe to say that the majority of Chromebook sales have likely happened in the past four and a half months, since the price point on the Samsung Series 3 and Acer C7 really started the consumer interest. 

Let them grow separately

Given that Chrome OS has had a relatively short lifespan so far, we're actually hoping that Sundar Pichai's new position as head of Android (in addition to retaining his position as head of Chrome) doesn't point to a merging of the two products. The DigiTimes article makes it seem like it is inevitable, but we're not so sure it will be in the form that you might expect. Google has always maintained that Android is for touchscreen devices and Chrome OS is for devices with keyboards. Of course, there have been Android devices with keyboard docks, and the new Chromebook Pixel has a touchscreen; so, the lines are blurring. 

But, when talking about merging the two platforms, the prevailing idea is usually that Android already runs the Chrome browser, so it seems like an easy move to just put Android on laptops. We understand that many of our readers are power users, and may not be able to understand the value of the "browser in a box" idea, but trust us, a $249 two and a half pound notebook is a killer product for a writer, and Chromebooks work quite well for a large amount of the population who don't need anything more than a browser. There are plenty of people in the world who live in a browser, and there are more and more each day. The web is constantly getting better and offering more tools to users. 

The idea of simply putting Android on laptops ignores the strengths of Chrome OS, and ignores the weaknesses of Android. The main strength of Chrome OS is actually the main weakness of Android: security and updates. Chrome OS is not an open platform; it is controlled and built by Google (though Chrome OS has roots in the open source Chromium and WebKit projects.) Because of this, and because it is just a browser in a box, Chrome OS devices are always up to date. They are fast, simple, easy, and Chrome OS was the only browser to not get hacked at Pwnium 3 earlier this month. Chromebooks are not designed to be the primary computer of a power-user, they are meant to be the primary computer of a casual user, or the secondary computer for anyone else. 

On the other hand, Android isn't weak on security, but there are more ways for a casual user to do something stupid and create risks in the platform than it is with Chrome OS. And, of course, Android's biggest issue is getting updates pushed to all of the various devices in the ecosystem. Android is built more for power users, so there are a ton of deeper options, and as such Android has a steeper learning curve. Android has 800,000+ apps, sure, but keep in mind that the vast majority of those apps are optimized for devices 7" and under. The app selection for 10" tablets is still not up to par for Android, which would severely hamper the experience of using Android on a laptop that would be 11" or larger. Besides, how many things are there that you really can't do with a Chromebook? Unless you can't live without Skype, or advanced video/photo editing tools, there isn't much the web (and Chrome OS) can't do. 

They can live together, but not kill each other

There are two distinct use cases for Chrome OS and Android, so why not allow for both? The perfect device would be something along the lines of the Asus Transformer series, because it would need a keyboard for Chrome OS, and it would need to also be a proper tablet for Android. As we said, Chrome OS is designed to be the primary platform of a casual user, or the secondary platform for anyone else, so creating a hybrid device would make sense for a number of users

We'd say that the real key to the future of Android and Chrome can be seen with the Chromebook Pixel and crouton, which uses chroot to allow users to quickly switch between Chrome OS and Ubuntu with just a keystroke. Chrome OS is essentially a barebones Linux OS that only runs Chrome, but crouton allows Ubuntu to run as a guest OS using the Chromium OS system with its own segregated file system. This way, users still get Chrome OS as intended, but have the option to switch over to a full-featured OS when and if necessary, and using chroot makes this all extremely fast, because it isn't a dual-boot system, Android would run inside Chrome OS (or vice versa). Using chroot may not be the best possible solution, because of security risks that arise with the method, but the basic idea is still sound.

The success of one platform doesn't necessarily have to mean the destruction of the other (similar to the idea that just because Android is the most successful, doesn't mean that there is no value in iOS or Windows Phone.) We think that Sundar Pichai may understand that, and may not be looking to merge the two platforms, at least not without giving Chrome OS more time to grow. 


Android is a powerhouse, and can certainly take on most any task, but Android is still not quite where it needs to be as far as having app optimized for larger screens. There are still far too many apps that can't run on a 10" tablet, so an 11"+ laptop would cause even more trouble. There are many out there who just want to see Android on laptops, and end the discussion there, but we don't agree. There is value in the Chrome OS platform, and it shouldn't be dismissed so quickly.

The web is an amazing place, and has a ton to offer. Because of that, Chrome OS has a lot to offer as well. Chrome OS is still pretty young, and really just became a viable option in the notebook space about 4 months ago. So, at the very least, it's a bit too early to talk about the death of the platform. 

source: DigiTimes



1. wendygarett unregistered

I just enter a contest and I hope I can win the chromebook :)

2. wendygarett unregistered

"Chrome OS is not an open platform; it is controlled and built by Google (though Chrome OS has roots in the open source Chromium and WebKit projects.)" As long as the platform can be rooted and not described as 'jailbreak' It is considered an open platform for me :)

3. Zero0

Posts: 592; Member since: Jul 05, 2012

In the purest sense, I take open to mean free (as in freedom of speech) and open source software. By this, neither Chrome OS nor Android is open. A good amount of the software is open, but they have non-free programs (Flash on Chrome, a lot of closed Google software on Android). That said, these platforms are open relative to iOS. Relative to Debian or FreeBSD, they are closed. They're only a bit more open than Windows.

12. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

I can't get behind that definition, because that would make MacOS and Windows "open platforms", because it's quite easy to get root level access on those platforms.

17. gallison1983

Posts: 47; Member since: Dec 19, 2012

Wendy, a good definition of an open source operating system is one that is comprised entirely of free software that also allows you to compile source and modify under various public licences. Android; as AOSP, is open source. Android; as spun by OEMs, is not open source. Not all Linux is open source. Red Hat Enterprise Linux is open source, yet you pay for a license. Ubuntu Linux is free, but contains a high level of proprietary software and looks less and less like open source. I am not a fan of jailbreaking/rooting at all. Linux is an immensely powerful platform for the end user. Allowing root access opens up this power to the remote user. Once something gains root access in Linux, you're toast.

18. wendygarett unregistered

Thanks for sharing that :)

4. lhikary

Posts: 3; Member since: Mar 18, 2013

first post here :D meaow :3

5. Zero0

Posts: 592; Member since: Jul 05, 2012

I agree, largely. My main motivation is that I want Chrome OS to go places. My dream is a future where nearly everything is done in the browser. This way, developers will build once for the web, and their programs will run on anything. Software selection becomes a non-issue on every platform, desktop _or_ mobile. Desktop is headed there, but mobile is scaring me. Even an addition of the Android VM to Chrome OS kills the drive to develop for the HTML5 platform. That said, from Google's perspective, they have their hands in a lot of projects. There's a lot of diversity in Google's offerings, but a lot of overlap as well. Building two (relatively new) operating systems is probably not their ideal situation. Granted, Apple and Microsoft do it, but their operating systems are (however slowly) coming together. I think it's a matter of time before Chrome OS and Android start to converge.

6. kozza3

Posts: 778; Member since: Oct 17, 2012

i need to find a chromebook review...

7. Ruckus

Posts: 286; Member since: Oct 20, 2011

I only know one person that has one and he claims many problems with them. I wouldn't mind trying one though. Choice is good.

9. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

I can tell you that I love the Samsung Chromebook. It gets solid battery life, the build quality is very nice, and I haven't found anything yet that it isn't powerful enough to handle. It's light and super portable, and it's also completely silent, no fans at all. As long as Chrome OS is all you need, it's hard to not recommend that hardware. I haven't used the Acer Chromebook, but word has it that it's getting updated with more RAM and a bigger battery. The Samsung is running on an Exynos processor, the Acer is an Intel Celeron, and the only other difference is the Acer has a 320GB HDD, and the Samsung is a 16GB SSD. Frankly, I prefer the speed and quiet of the SSD, and I don't need that much local storage on a cloud computer anyway.

15. thelegend6657 unregistered

I would just take the Acer chrome book and flash windows on it . At least the price sounds like a bargain to me . But anyway why would anyone need chrome OS ? I run Android x86 on my computer it only takes up 4GB of space and can do more things than chrome OS

16. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

Please read the article for reasons why Chrome OS is valuable.

8. buccob

Posts: 2975; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

chrome os should be a "downloadable" app to be used on android tablets and become a choice of the user. not to be merge, but to be irrational for who needs it. maybe charging a reasonable price for it...

10. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

Chrome OS is a "downloadable" app for Android. It's called Chrome. Running the full Chrome OS inside Android defeats the purpose of Chrome OS.

13. buccob

Posts: 2975; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

well yeah. I get your point. but I personally think that given that the world is mostly undeveloped, like my country, chromebooks will never gain much traction outside US. A "laptop" device that cannot be used unless it's online its not useful here and in most parts of the world. on the other hand, a popular tablet with full blown chrome os would indeed be killer. I understand that it goes against the idea behind it but the future lies in convergence. at least that's my opinion

14. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

I understand that Chromebooks don't have much use in underdeveloped regions, but never say never. The Internet is getting built out everywhere, it just takes time.

26. buccob

Posts: 2975; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

I like that most of the time, you give feedback to comments at your articles... I wish other writers did the same here... (I know some do, but most of the time they don't get as involved as you)

11. buccob

Posts: 2975; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

optional * not irrational. that was a dumb auto correct

19. saiki4116

Posts: 413; Member since: Mar 31, 2011

The Thing is Chrome OS is ahead of time, when cloud computing becomes the norm, all the Google's competitors will be found napping. Only Google can support such a OS and great they are doing a good job.

20. UrbanPhantom

Posts: 949; Member since: Oct 30, 2012

Chrome OS is like Linux, great for that 1 percent who likes niche products. Good for you people, but the rest of us will continue use Windoz or Mac OS, simply because switching to Chrome offers no genuine advantages, and plenty of disadvantages (like failing to be compatible with an infinite amount of software written for x86)

24. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

There are plenty of people out there (far more than 1%) who have a Windows or Mac laptop and only use the browser anyway, even though there is "an infinite amount of software". Oh, and there is a ton of software for Linux, and there are genuine advantages of Linux over Mac or PC for all users, not just power users.

21. jade272727

Posts: 62; Member since: Dec 10, 2011

That's right! Let them grow seperately!

22. fteoOpty64

Posts: 8; Member since: Mar 19, 2013

Chrome Pixel is nice hardware in general but lacks a real OS to run it. ChromeOS is just a minimal layer without much features and capabilities in there. Put a real Linux in there and we can start to rock. In fact, Google choosing Intel chip is a mistake in its design!. For a power developer, one would want a dual processor notebook which will run a full server OS and a full client OS at the same time. Also, put twin GigE ports so it can be internet connected and connected to a private development. The future of Cloud computing is also distributed cloud meaning public cloud, private cloud, home cloud, service cloud etc. Local server is part of certain clouds. Clients feeds off clouds. We got decent clients with our handsets, tablets etc just public and subscribed servers ?. A twin proc ARM 15 chip would do fine and twin msata slots on the machine easily accessible by a couple of screws. No point having a touchscreen if the keyboard is not removable!.

25. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

As stated in the column, the Pixel can run Ubuntu along with Chrome OS. Also as stated in the column, the entire point and advantage of Chrome OS is that it isn't a traditional "real" OS, and Chrome OS isn't designed for power users (like yourself). Just because a product isn't aimed at you doesn't mean it needs to change to suit your preferences.

28. fteoOpty64

Posts: 8; Member since: Mar 19, 2013

"Chromebooks are not designed to be the primary computer of a power-user, they are meant to be the primary computer of a casual user, or the secondary computer for anyone else. " Tell me which casual user will pay $1300 for a web computer when he/she can choose the myriad of notebooks/tablets out there for less than half the price yet do much much more!. The Chrome Team really bombed on this Pixel. In fact, it makes the $999 Surface Pro looks really cheap for a change. Making Microsoft laugh is rare. This one, they were rolling on the floor...

23. NokiaFTW

Posts: 2072; Member since: Oct 24, 2012

Great article. Well done Micheal :)

27. jspanitz

Posts: 3; Member since: Mar 20, 2013

ChromeOS just makes me laugh. The concept is nothing new and nothing more than a mainframe or as400 style central server wih dumb terminals. And 500k units sold? If it were any other company the analysts would be slaughtering them. Can't figure out why anyone would want a device like this when you can do the same thing on a full blown OS plus have all the features of a full blown OS. Reminds me of all the Apple lemmings running around waiting for Steve jobs to tell them what they need next. Sorry mates, I just don't see a future or the point of ChromeOS, other than google locking you in to their ecosystem and stealing, er data mining you personal data.

29. Bob327

Posts: 14; Member since: Mar 17, 2013

Well I own and make use of an Acer (I'm cheap) and I quickly replaced the Toshiba net book my wife uses with another Acer,, I find it extremely good at what it does BUT it could put a few on y Android apps on the thing it would be more useful for me... The Acer I purchased for my wife to replace her Toshiba netbook gets nothing but praise from my wife...she loves the fact that it loads and is up and running in seconds rather then minutes with the netbook... My only complaint is the lack of a good E-mail client..with filters and and easy way to do a bulk deletion of e-mails easily G mail works but is a royal pain in the you know what when I use it to pull my personal e-mails.. I guess Eudora has me spoiled So bottom line I'd love to have the ability to run some android apps on the darn thing... BTW... I have 8 computers in the house,garages, wood shop and in my backyard observatory and all get used almost daily as well as a Tablet BUT I use my Chrombook more then half the time.. PL:US IF it could run an app like SkySafari I'd have one in my observatory to control my telescope Bob G

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit for samples and additional information.