Over the past few years a number of companies have tried to turn Google Android into a desktop (or TV-focused) operating system by adding support for multi-window mode, among other things. Most recently, Chinese startups have launched Android-based operating systems like Remix OS and Phoenix OS which add a taskbar, desktop, and Windows-like multi-window functionality to Android.
But now that Google is bringing support for Android apps to Chrome OS, is there a future for those operating systems?
David Ko is co-founder of Jide, the company that develops Remix OS. Here’s what he had to say about Google’s move:
It’s exciting news to us because it represents an overall trend in computing that aims to merge mobile apps with the desktop environment. The benefits and limits of mobility as well as the desktop are clear and bridging the two is now a priority even for the big brands. We’re really glad there are more players coming into this space because it continues to validate what we set out to do two years ago. More options are better for consumers because it’ll drive the pace of innovation, and at the end of the day, the market grows and consumers win.
Of course, you wouldn’t exactly expect Jide to announce it was closing up shop after spending years working on an operating system which is starting to gain traction.
But given a choice between using a Chromebook or Chromebox that includes a full desktop web browser with support for extensions and web apps and access to over a million Android apps from the Google Play Store, or an operating system that just runs Android apps… well, Chrome OS looks pretty good.
On the other hand, there are a few situations where Remix OS and Phoenix OS might have an edge: the Play Store isn’t as important in China, as the US and Europe, for example, which could make Chrome OS + Android less appealing in that country.
You can also easily download and install the Remix or Phoenix on most recent PCs.
Sure, you can also install Chromium OS, the open source version of Chrome OS on a PC. But I doubt you’ll get full support for Android apps that way. At the very least, you’re unlikely to get the Google Play Store (although to be fair, the Play Store isn’t included with Remix OS or Phoenix OS for PCs either… you need to sideload it yourself).
Overall, David Ko is right: Google’s decision to bring Android apps to Chromebooks brings more competition to the Android apps-on-laptop-or-desktop computer space. Whether that proves to be good for companies like Jide or Phoenix remains to be seen. But it’ll probably be good for users, either way.