Could Google Android Merge With Chrome OS?

Some are suggesting that Google should merge Chrome and Android. Clint Boulton says it might happen, but not any time soon

There’s a debate afoot now that Chrome operating system has been released on the Cr-48 test flight notebook.

Pundits are coming out swinging against Chrome OS, predicting its outright demise, or possible merger with Android, Google’s other operating system.

Android is flying high

With nearly one quarter of US smartphone market and 300,000 smartphone activations per day, we know from more than just anecdotal evidence or speculation that Android is here to stay as much as Apple’s iPhone.

So what of Chrome OS, the Web operating system atop which Web apps will run in Chrome browser? Gmail creator Paul Bucheit tossed this zinger on Twitter this week:

“Prediction: ChromeOS will be killed next year (or “merged” with Android).”

He explained: “Because ChromeOS has no purpose that isn’t better served by Android.”

Is Bucheit right about Chrome OS? With officially-sanctioned Chrome OS netbooks slated to arrive from Samsung and Acer in mid-2011, this prediction seems a bit steep. There would have to be serious issues or a serious lack of demand for the demise of Chrome OS 6 months after its launch on mass-produced devices.

But if the machines don’t sell — and they will be duly challenged by an iPad 2 and myriad Android tablets by the time the arrive — Bucheit could be proved prescient.

It is worth noting, as Search Engine Land’s Greg Sterling correctly reminded us, that Google Co-founder Sergey Brin said in 2009 that Chrome OS and Android could merge one day.

I have heard the same from IDC analyst Al Hilwa for the past year. Most recently, he told me:

In the long run, I still see some of the Chrome OS ideas filtering into Android to allow users to dabble with more cloud services without making an all-or-nothing choice.

It’s hard for people to see how Google can juggle two operating systems, especially when Chrome OS and Android’s have similar applications – Web access, with a bent on mobile.

Remember, Google released Cr-48 with Wi-Fi and two years of 3G capability from Verizon (in the US). Google wants you to be able to print Google Docs and other content via Chrome OS from a cab, so there’s no question it views Chrome OS as a mobile technology.

While I can’t see Chrome OS running on smartphones, it seems well suited for tablets. For example, there’s no reason why Google can’t reproduce the funky Cr-48 keyboard to create a compelling virtual keyboard for a Chrome OS tablet.

If I had to pick one of Bucheit’s predictions, I’d guess Chrome OS could be wed to Android, but it won’t happen in 2011. I’m not going to predict beyond that.

Remember, a year ago at this time there was no Apple iPad to trigger a tablet avalanche that is now eating up netbook market share.