I’ve been patiently waiting and envying the presence of the Play Store on the Asus Flip. I have the Acer R11 which is one of the chromebooks Google has siad will get the update in June. I’m already on the DEV channel on it so eagerly anticipate the new toys to play with. However, all is not good in Chrome+Android land. I think there are things that will need to change to really make a difference be a difference:
Touch Screen devices – we will need more devices that sport touch screens. Once we see the variety of Android apps and their responses to touch and swipe and selection, we’ll need more devices that support direct touch on the screen. It goes beyond merely touching the screen and it arrives at the quality of the use. I think Android apps are meant for that most personal of uses while chromebooks have been a keyboard and trackpad or mouse environment mostly. Currently the ability to flip the screen around on the R11 is a novelty. Chrome itself does not do really well with tablet form factors. That brings me to the second point which is tied to the first.
2 in 1 Devices – I look at something like the Pixel C which came out with Android and now ask why. If this had come with Chrome and we got Android on it, it would been a killer device. Instead I think it got the wrong core OS. Now they should fix that and release a firmware update to let it run Chrome instead. It would be the perfect crossover device and would be instantly a multi-tasker’s heaven. Instead it lingers on Android and I don’t understand it. Simply put we need to have different types of devices. Some with cellular abilities. Some 2 in 1 devices, some different screen sizes. The entire ecosystem now needs to change to give people additional choice and options.
Storage and Management Tools – We need better storage and file management tools since we will be installing a variety of applications. I want the Microsoft Office apps and Flipboard and others. Others want Photoshop and drawing tools. Yet others want games. I can see a point where the storage levels will need to catch up. We will need devices with 128 or 256gb of memory installed because productivity devices that crossover and use both sets of apps will have different needs. So I count storage as a primary need and management of that storage as a close second.
One Device; Not Two – I think the entire line between cell phone and device will blur and chromebooks which are now laptops could blur the distinction and become multiple use devices where we can do all the things. A simcard slot and cellular service will mean we are good wherever the urge takes us. In other countries, buying a prepaid sim card is simplicity. In Singapore, India, Vietnam; its a few minutes in a convenience store or at the front desk of the hotel. So, I think our new generation of devices will change toward digital devices which cover a spectrum of uses. I was thinking of this last night over beers. Traveling with a single suitcase and limited room, what do you really want to go with? I want a chromebook like the Flip or R11 that can make phone calls. If it does Skype okay. I can buy a landline through Skype. If it can do Project Fi and why should it not be able to; then the cellular convergence would be interesting to see.
Bridging educational, corporate, and enterprise gaps – Finally, the entire ecosystem has to change to support these devices in a multi BYOD approach where thin clients can use thick resources on remote servers. We should be able to have very thin clients that can connect to enterprise virtual machines for work. All the work is stored there and the chromebook becomes a cheaper medium for accessing work. Yet the work files are stored on a secure server locked away behind corporate firewalls and security. Android apps will have to bridge this gap too and corporate identity management and security will have to adopt and adapt to new generations of BYOD users.
There are probably many more around choice and use, price points, etc. I’m pretty sure we will see a new generation of chrome devices which will cost more. We will get more storage, better management, more cohesive frameworks that let chrome and android get along together so applications are shared within if they are not already. New devices will launch that will show the power of the 2 in 1 orientation and let us snap off the keyboard for more immersive interaction. Chrome OS will become more touch friendly somehow. It has to get better because it kinda sucks now when you flip the R11 to tablet format. We should have a better on screen keyboard with swipe abilities, the ability to buy third part keyboards if we want, different desktop managers like Nova extended to chromebooks.
The truth is everything will change and that’s just the way it should be. Things that do not change are the dodo birds of life. Stuck in evolutionary backwaters until they simple disappear. Chrome+Android is way too dynamic and disruptive for that. We not only need Google. We need developers and UI folks to step it forward and define new strategies for how we interact on the new generations of chromebooks with android enabled by default.
Exciting times! Ain’t you glad you waited? 🙂