Google is apparently going to "fold" Chrome OS into Android, potentially killing the development of a secure, lightweight desktop OS in the process.
The Wall Street Journal, citing anonymous sources, claims engineers at the Mountain View giant have spent the past two years merging Chrome OS into Android.
The end result will be an all-encompassing OS for mobile devices and notebooks, we're told. The software will be demonstrated by the end of 2016, and released the next year, the WSJ claims.
Chrome OS was pitched as an operating system for low-powered netbooks, and is largely aimed at the education market. It is built from the open-source Chromium OS, a minimal Gentoo-derived GNU/Linux operating system that pretty much does everything through the Chrome (or Chromium) web browser.
Although it can run a handful of native apps offline, it's mostly a terminal to the web: word processing, games, social nattering, and so on, can all be done online through the browser.
The integration of Chrome OS into Android is not unexpected: a merging of the two operating systems has been on the cards since 2013, when Google Android exec Andy Rubin was replaced by Chrome OS veteran Sundar Pichai. A year later, Google showed off technology allowing Android apps to run on Chrome OS systems, and today Pichai is Google's chief exec.
The reported move is not without its critics, particularly in the security community. While Chrome OS is praised for its minimal attack surface and locked-down sandboxed browser environment, Android has been riddled with vulnerabilities. If development of Chrome OS stalls while Googlers focus on building a laptop-friendly Android, that's what you might call bad news.
Most experts I know have deep respect for the security in Google's Chrome OS. None have respect for Android. Sad that Android won vs Chrome.— Christopher Soghoian (@csoghoian) October 29, 2015
Fuck fuck fuck fuck. RIP best current OS being merged into most shit current OS. Fucking Google fuckers. Fuck. https://t.co/IIeTX6taWl— Ryan Lackey (@octal) October 29, 2015
Today is the worst day in operating system security in my lifetime.— Ryan Lackey (@octal) October 29, 2015
Chrome OS is the most secure operating system you can buy. Lauded by experts everywhere for its design. Plz dont go away =(— SecuriTay (@SwiftOnSecurity) October 29, 2015
Judging by this paragraph in the WSJ's article, the open-source Chromium project will quietly soldier on while Google staff beaver away on a Chromedroid hybrid:
Chrome OS will remain as an open source operating system that other companies can use to make laptops, and Google engineers will continue maintaining it. However, Google’s focus will be on extending Android to run on laptops, according to one of the people.
Google did not respond to The Register's request for comment on the newspaper's report. Hiroshi Lockheimer – who oversees Android, Chrome OS and Chromecast at Google – reckons the web goliath is "very committed to Chrome OS." ®