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Google Chrome OS shows limitations of Android

Elizabeth Montalbano | July 10, 2009
The need for a new, netbook-specific OS raises questions about Android's long-term viability for those devices

Some Android developers agreed it makes sense to have two projects -- even if they are concerned about what this means for Google's long-term commitment to Android -- because Android running on netbooks has its flaws.

"I think it's going to be pretty disheartening for those people who are working on Android, but I think it's from their experiences that the need for a separate OS with a different focus has come about," said Al Sutton, technology director for Funky Android, a company that develops Android applications. "There has been some success with getting Android onto some notebooks, but there has always been the issue that the user experience is a bit clunky when compared to OSes designed for those devices."

Some of the problems stem from Android being designed for touch-screen devices, whereas most netbooks still have a keyboard and need an OS designed to provide that kind of device capability, he said.

Another Android developer, Mariano Kamp, agreed that Android has design limitations for netbooks, but said the next version will fare better, particularly when adapting the OS to a larger-screened device.

"There is work under way to improve the situation," he said. "The next release of Android will officially support higher-resolution screens."

Still, developers worry that Google may make the same mistakes with Chrome OS that it's made with Android. By licensing it under the Apache open-source license, Google did not require developers to make public their modifications to Android code, leaving some to wonder whether Android will become fragmented as incompatible versions appear in different types of devices.

Sutton worried that Google will use Linux as its base for the Chrome OS but act purely in its own self-interest, and not respect the work of the Linux groups already porting the OS to netbooks.

"I can see how throwing their weight behind one single group could have a negative effect on the Linux ecosystem -- after all, who would want to compete with a Google-backed Linux distribution?" he said. "But I hope they're going to feed their work back into the community and not create something akin to the Android situation, where although the base OS is available, there are several components which Google keeps behind closed doors."

 

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