Chromebooks + Android-powered phones: An insight.

May 18, 2011 | Posted In: Insights, news

At the just concluded, Google I/O, something fascinating was unveiled, the Google Chromebook. According to their website, Chromebooks are built and optimized for the web, where we all already spend about 90% of our time. It would be available from June 15th from stores around the world.

It has been said that Chromebooks would destroy Windows powered laptops and change the way we do our computing, I couldn’t agree more but from an entirely different perspective.

It has also been said that Chromebooks might destroy the android ecosystem and its advances and ultimately the Android tablets, well at this point, I simply don’t agree. I don’t think a company as big as Google would allow products to kill each other or at least have seen that they might be a clash in the future of both innovative thinking.

First the products:

CHROMEBOOK

The following are specifications of the upcoming Chromebook built in conjunction with Acer and SAMSUNG specs:

  • 12.1″ (1280×800) 300 nit Display
  • 3.26 lbs / 1.48 kg
  • 8.5 hours of continuous usage 1
  • Intel® AtomTM Dual-Core Processor
  • Built in dual-band Wi-Fi and World-mode 3G (optional)
  • HD Webcam with noise cancelling microphone
  • 2 USB 2.0 ports
  • 4-in-1 memory card slot
  • Mini-VGA port
  • Fullsize Chrome keyboard
  • Oversize fully-clickable trackpad

ACER specs:

  • 11.6″ HD Widescreen CineCrystalTM LED-backlit LCD
  • 3.19 lbs | 1.45 kg
  • 6 hours of continuous usage 1
  • Intel® AtomTM Dual-Core Processor
  • Built in dual-band Wi-Fi and World-mode 3G (optional)
  • HD Webcam with noise cancelling microphone
  • High-Definition Audio Support
  • 2 USB 2.0 ports
  • 4-in-1 memory card slot
  • HDMI port
  • Fullsize Chrome keyboard
  • Oversize fully-clickable trackpad

The following are the features of the Chromebooks:

1)      Boots in about 8secs.

2)      Always connected via wifi or 3G connections.

3)      Same experience everywhere.

4)      Amazing web applications.

5)      Forever fresh.

6)      Inbuilt security.

For further information about Chromebooks and associated videos please visit: Click here

Android OS

Android OS accordingly to Wikipedia is a software stack for mobile devices which includes OS, middleware and key applications built by Google. The newest stable version of Android is called Gingerbread (Android 2.3) for mobile devices and Honeycomb(Android 3.0) for tablets.  For more information Click:

CHROME Vs Android

In one of such discussions that Chrome is going to kill android, it is said that Google may scale back its android development cause of Chrome. Source. Although this was way back in 2009, I still see that most industry expert still believe this to be the case. According to this post, experts still believe that end users still need to choose between both platforms.

Some of their insights are:

Netbook replacement

ChromeOS was a netbook replacement when netbooks were becoming hotcake due to their size and portability. However, Windows OS (Vista) running on this Netbooks was a nightmare on this platform. Apple introduced Macbook AIR also to rival Netbooks and were first to discard traditional hard drive storage for SSDs.

Native Development  Vs Web applications.

Industry expert see that native development on the android platform is a way to go rather than building web applications. With native applications developers are able to access the various hardware components within the android device via its SDK. While web applications might not have full access to the native device.

They also mention that Android OS already comes with a powerful built in browser built on the webkit ChromeOS runs. With the built-in webkit features of the Android browser, developers can make use of the opportunity to access native processes of the android device via the browser and combine with HTML-5 whilst with Chrome OS you are stuck with plain HTML-5.

CHROME OS + ANDROID = TRUE CLOUD COMPUTING.

However, this year’s Consumer Electronic show(CES 2011) gave rise to a seemingly interesting product which most industry experts may have missed. That product is: Motorola Atrix 4G.

The following are its specifications:

  • NVIDIA Tegra 2 (dual-core 1 GHz Cortex A9 + GeForce ULP)
  • HSPA+ at 14.4 Mbit/s down, 5.76 Mbit/s up where available[14]
  • Android 2.2; 2.3 upgrade planned for later in 2011[15]
  • 1 GB LP DDR2 RAM
  • 16 GB Internal memory, expandable by microSD 32 GB, total of 48 GB
  • 4-inch PenTile qHD display (540×960) with Gorilla Glass[16]
  • 5.0 MP with dual LED flash, 4x digital zoom and autofocus, 720p video capture at 30 fps

(Full 1080p video capture will be supported via software upgrade post-launch)

  • VGA front-facing camera for video calls
  • TriColor LED notification light
  • Fingerprint scanner
  • 1.93 Ah user-changeable battery
  • 117.75 × 63.50 × 10.95 millimetres (4.636 × 2.500 × 0.431 in)
  • 135 grams (4.8 oz)

From the specifications above, it feels seemingly decent but the real deal with the Motorola Atrix isn’t the phone but the Laptop dock accessory.  The specification for this dock is given as:

  • Display: 11.6inch, 1366×768
  • Port: 2-USB
  • CPU, memory, storage, OS: None.

The beauty about the dock is that it is powered by the Atrix’s Tegra-2 processor which is a dual-core 1Ghz processor. When docked, it charges the Motorola Atrix and launches a tiny kernel within the laptop Dock and this mode is called Webtop mode. It has generated a lot of buzz and interests amongst tech savvy geeks and also corporate executives who want a phone laptop combo without the risk of losing anything if both devices get missing.

MY INSIGHTS

From the above explanation, I am guessing that you already see my views on Chromebooks and Android powered devices. Google, I believe is going to build a combo just like the Motorola Atrix and its laptop dock. It would eventually be Android powered Chromedock devices.

ANDROID ICECREAM SANDWICH (ANDROID ICS: 2.4) + CHROMEDOCKS

Android 2.4( codename: Ice-cream Sandwich) is said to be the end of android fragmentation and the merging of tablet experience and the mobile experience.  Unifying it brings developers some relief as they would just end up coding once and the experience is shared across multiple devices. I believe this is simply the beginning of Google unveiling their ultimate product line up yet, the unification of Android Ice-cream sandwich and the Chromebook. For information click here

The Chromedock essentially would be no different from the Motorola laptop dock. Both are powered by a tiny Linux kernel, both run applications within a browser, Firefox for Motorola and ChromeOS for ChromeDock.

Proposed Specifications for ChromeDock:

  • Display: 11.6inch, 1366×768
  • Port: 2-USB
  • CPU: powered by Android mobile device( Tegra-3, QuadCore)
  • Memory: Powered by Android mobile device (2GB)
  • Storage: None.
  • OS: ChromeOS + Android-mode.
  • HDMI output.

So I believe the upcoming Tegra-3  chip (quad-core based) would be an interesting mix to the entire deal as I believe that future Chromebooks would spot a dock-like feature which would allow Android ICS be docked and access all your contacts, applications via the Chrome browser and allow a user switch between Android-mode & Chromebook mode. In the end, it would be beautiful to fully live in the cloud as described by Google.

Since Google already has a solid move in it ChromeOS venture and partnerships with ACER & SAMSUNG, I believe these partners can develop ChromeDocks for future Android-powered phones. In the end, ACER, SAMSUNG and others would release Android-powered phones to work respectively with their ChromeDocks stations. Even Encipher would jump on this bandwagon

THE FUTURE

Social media & Traditional Computing

I believe Google has a powerful strategy. To take over cloud computing not just via services but control the hardware and also certify such hardware. Their ultimate strategy isn’t really to kill the laptop PC running windows OS but to take over a budding cloud computing enterprise where industry players are yet to really make a big dent. In a bid to win the race for social, which Facebook currently dominates, they are creating hardware to help them connect to this social experience and monetize via it. I believe with such integration, Google kind of puts a dent in the social media experience in being able to integrate your social experience on a mobile device and ChromeDocks.

Microsoft

This also appeals to enterprises as Google has almost any services that are done in premise.  Their Google Apps & Google Apps marketplace has a plethora of applications that can compete with Microsoft anytime. Apps ranging from Google enterprise mail to ERP solutions. And this list is endless. Some are free while some are on a rent basis which allows one to ensure ROIs immediately rather than spend so much and wait for ROIs later on during the quarters. More information on Google Apps market place, please visit:  https://www.google.com/enterprise/marketplace/

Microsoft also has a cloud strategy for its products and also gaining recognition but with its slow pace within the tablet market and the mobile space, in the end a combo like a Android powered Tegra-3 device and a ChromeDocks might eventually slow down their pace in being king in such a thriving and bubbling space. This futuristic move might as well kill Microsoft in the enterprise market space where it is currently king. Although I strongly believe Microsoft office is still a killer reason why anyone would stick to Windows for a long time to come.

This also would eat deeply into other ERP solution providers like SAP and Oracle as all infrastructures would be hosted by Google and small start ups can compete with the big boys in terms of scalability without breaking the bank.

Developers

For developers, it would be a dream- come true. Java’s inspiration as always been, “Write once, run everywhere”. Everywhere refers to any platform be it SPARC, INTEL etc. I believe with Android ICS + ChromeDocks, it would really be a true “Write once, run on every device”. Every device being Tablets + Mobile + PC(Chromebooks, Windows, Linux), Apple(via Safari).  Developers wouldn’t need to boot different operating systems to build innovative programs anymore as there now cloud-based IDEs (e.g. Cloud9) which allows developers build and execute web apps straight from your browser. This would enable developers build scalable applications and test on Google App Engine instantly and test it out on the mobile for mobile phones, tablet via the tablet features of ICS via the Chromebook interface emulator for Tablets and finally on Chromebooks itself for a browser feel. Also remember, the Google web-based IDE for Android development (App Inventor) which allows building Android apps straight from your browser to the docked Android phone and tested straight from the ChromeDocks interface for mobiles all courtesy of the power of the ChromeOS.

For more information, check out:

Cloud9 IDE: http://cloud9ide.com/

Google App Inventor: http://appinventor.googlelabs.com/about/

Revenue

This in the end has to translate to revenue for Google in the end. As always, they have been generating revenue from Search since inception and I believe it would be no different. Now that they certify both products (Chromebook & Android ICS), I believe they would invade(in a positive tone) you with ads. Chromebooks (ChromeDocks) could have a segment to the right-hand side with interactive HTML-5 ads which changes when a user searches for results. When a phone is docked, it instantly displays relevant apps from the market place which a user may choose to install directly on the docked phone and either played via the ChromeDocks or when the phone is undocked.

Also with YouTube having a lots of user-generated contents and now trying to gain Live-TV attention, your bet is as good as mine, it may replace your TV which in turn translates to more revenue for Google. It would be cool to have HDMI outputs from the ChromeDock to your TV and allows the user watch TV comfortably and use Bluetooth keyboard/Mouse to control the ChromeDocks(with phone docked) and can interact. Adverts would be streamed and played for the user based on interests all stored up in the cloud.

CONCERNS

With all the wonderful painted scenarios, there are some concerns with the above named scenarios:

1)      Security:

It all sounds good and fun, until a breach happens someplace and it dents our happiness. The recent SONY PLAYSTATION breach is a classic example. A lot of enterprises still love on-premise computing as they can safe-guard their data and also prevent exploitation from cloud infrastructure. Google must be able to ensure secured data and also timely delivery of critical transactions whilst using cloud-based applications.

2)      Integrity:

Would Google keep their integrity and remain not evil? Their motto “Don’t be evil” has shaped them to become a world-class company but occasional breaches such as the Google Street cars snooping of wifi passwords can dent such integrity especially since a ChromeDocks + Android combo would highly depend on such integrity. However, Google has been a kind company in admitting to such mistakes and I believe they genuinely admit when they cross lines that breaches their motto.

3)      Outage:

Ok, I love the idea of outsourcing all my on-premise computing infrastructure to the cloud but what in the world do I do if Google cloud infrastructure goes off for a few hours? I sit and hope they fix it. There have been outages even from the masters of cloud infrastructures. Amazon, Microsoft and Google occasionally report outage and end up apologizing. I believe we cannot dodge this fact since we are talking about computers running the infrastructure. They break down, parts needs to be replaced, OS needs to be upgraded etc. However, I believe Google in time would master the loopholes and provide incredible failovers for such outages. Only time will tell.

For recent outages:

Amazon: http://news.yahoo.com/s/nf/20110429/tc_nf/78358

Google: http://news.cnet.com/widespread-google-outages-rattle-users/

Microsoft: http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Cloud-Computing/Microsofts-BPOS-Service-Outage-Illustrates-Cloud-Conundrum-833143/

4)      Bandwidth:

Well for most part of North America and some other parts of the world, this isn’t an issue but writing from Nigeria and being part of a budding enterprise here, it is a heavy concern. How would a thriving startup here plug into such an innovative idea without decent broadband?  They can’t. However there is hope, with more cables landing, I believe the prices would go down much further producing more competition and faster speed. It is also good that it is happening now so when the combo hits, we would be able to enjoy the innovation as well within Nigeria.

CONCLUSION

I hope I have been able to shed more light into what I believe might be a strategy Google might employ to marry both Android ICS + Chromebooks into what I have termed (Android ICS + ChromeDocks). I don’t work for Google so these are entirely my own insights and forecasts for a thriving cloud computing industry.

I believe strongly that Google I/O 2012 would be a very interesting one for Android + Chromebooks. They might be giving away the duo for free. Either way, I do intend to participate in Google I/O in 2012 by God’s grace.