Senior exec says Alphabet remains ‘committed’ to Chrome OS

But if a news report about combining Android and Chrome turns out to be true, Alphabet may want to focus developers on a single OS for greater efficiencies

A story posted late Thursday by The Wall Street Journal citing unnamed sources said that Alphabet plans to unveil a single, new operating system in 2017 and that Google engineers have been already working for two years to combine the two OSes.

In an apparent response to that story, Hiroshi Lockmeimer, senior vice president of Android and Chrome OS at Alphabet, tweeted, "There's a ton of momentum for Chromebooks and we are very committed to Chrome OS."

One chief advantage of combining the two OSes would be to give users of Chromebooks -- laptops that run the Chrome OS -- the ability to access Android apps, which far outnumber the apps for Chromebooks and run on millions of Android smartphones and tablets.

The idea of combining Chrome OS and Android has been around for years, but there is a widespread debate as to whether it is better to keep an OS for laptops and PCs separate from the OS that runs on smartphones and tablets. Apple keeps them separate with Mac and iOS, but Microsoft combines them in Windows 10.

It's possible that the Journal's story was offered up by people close to Alphabet to generate a widespread debate and comment over how to proceed with the two OSes, analysts said Friday. Lockmeimer's contradiction doesn't emphatically say that Alphabet would never combine the two OSes, and he doesn't deny that there are Google engineers working to combine the two.

A spokesperson for Alphabet could not be reached immediately to comment.

"If the story's true, it is really about Alphabet keeping developers focused on one operating system, not two," said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. "Google may hope to get some developer efficiencies. As for the user experience, Google will need to say more about what they are doing."

Ramon Llamas, an analyst at IDC who has covered Android for years, said, "I like the idea" of combining the two. "Developers can take a 'develop once, deploy on all Google-powered devices' approach which avoids a lot of reprogramming."

Phil Hochmuth, an analyst at Strategy Analytics, said combining the two OSes would be a "good move." He said users have been expecting Android laptops for a while, and combining the two OSes would be a final step toward that. From a business perspective, a combination would "benefit corporate IT," as companies would have "one less OS to manage and maintain across an end-user base," Hochmuth said.

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