For years now, we have been listening to — and seeing — how Chrome OS and Android are coming collectively.
The saga has stretched on for the reason that daybreak of time — or, uh, not less than since about 2015, when the Chromebooks-are-doomed refrain began confidently crooning concerning the inevitable pending “merger” of Chrome OS and Android. On the identical time, after all, these of us who have been watching issues carefully anticipated a much more nuanced alignment of the platforms — nothing fairly as dramatic as an only-one-can-survive duel, admittedly, however a much more practical situation and one we might been seeing take form for a while.
And what ended up occurring? Effectively, I am going to inform ya, you rhetorical-question-adoring alpaca: The truth of that alignment grew to become more and more clear over time, with Google slowly however certainly bringing extra Android-like parts into Chrome OS (and even sometimes bringing Chrome-OS-inspired touches into Android). Month by month, yr by yr, we have watched the 2 platforms turn out to be extra constant, extra complementary, and extra related.
However that final half — the “related” half — has at all times fallen frustratingly in need of its potential. Chromebooks and Android telephones definitely appear to go collectively nowadays, and transferring from one to the opposite is a pleasingly acquainted expertise. However whereas Google’s come a good distance with aligning the platforms’ interfaces, options, and even app alternatives, the notion of Chromebooks and Android telephones working “higher collectively” has been extra advertising fluff than significant profit — not less than, up till now.
An under-development part in Google’s open-source Chrome OS code suggests a completely new system known as Cellphone Hub is presently within the works for Chromebooks. Cellphone Hub, you say? Sure, Cellphone Hub! As initially noticed by the eagle-eyed sleuths at 9to5Google, the function will apparently “present a [user interface] for customers to view details about their Android telephone and carry out phone-side actions inside Chrome OS.”
The code goes on to clarify that the Hub will embrace not less than three new choices: “Cellphone Hub Notifications,” “Cellphone Hub Notifications Badge,” and “Cellphone Hub Activity Continuation.”
Effectively, tickle me tootsies and name me Mildred: That is kind of precisely what the Android-Chrome-OS marriage has been missing all this time. And if any of it sounds acquainted, by golly, it ought to: It is fairly comparable, not less than on the floor, to the Continuity system Apple gives for its numerous iDevices. And it is also harking back to the work Microsoft is doing with its Home windows-to-Android “Your Cellphone” setup — although that association is way much less native and seamless, particularly on the Android aspect, and a few of its most helpful options are annoyingly restricted solely to current Samsung flagships (three sarcastic cheers for customer-hurting company partnerships!).
Google, in distinction, has each the motivation and the means to make the Android-Chromebook connection universally highly effective. And whereas the thought of notification syncing being introduced into the equation is a pleasant, if overdue, notion, it is the “Activity Continuation” idea that is most intriguing of all.
We have seen some teases of that kind of factor over time, like when Google added steered article hyperlinks into the Chrome OS app drawer some time again — however all these do is provide you with a fast method to pull pages you’d had open in your Android telephone. You do not actually choose up the place you left off in any significant means.
Equally, this time final yr, we began listening to about an effort to convey a shared clipboard of types into Android and Chrome OS gadgets the place the identical account is concerned. However thus far, all we have seen is a guide text-sharing setup, which is good and helpful and all however not fairly the true “common clipboard” many people have been hoping to have. (And it is also a purely Chrome-driven function, which suggests it really works between Android and another machine with Chrome put in — not solely a Chromebook. That definitely would not take something away from it, virtually talking, however it does make it appear to be much less of an Android-Chrome-OS connection, particularly.)
At this level, the principle extent of Android telephones and Chromebooks appearing related and dealing collectively resides inside a single part of the Chrome OS settings. It is known as “Linked gadgets,” and it was added into the combo in 2018. The part has three primary choices: pairing your Android telephone along with your Chromebook and empowering it to maintain the Chromebook unlocked when it is close by, permitting your telephone to share its information reference to the Chromebook in a considerably automated sense, and enabling web-based entry to your textual content messages on the Chromebook through the Google Messages app.
Not unhealthy, by any stretch — however, effectively, the primary two choices have been accessible on Chrome OS for ages, and the third is one thing that is truly accessible on any pc, whatever the working system. For all the eye this part obtained upon its arrival, it is largely only a repositioning and rebranding of some long-available, comparatively primary features. The choices themselves have remained stagnant for a very long time.
Bringing a real job continuation function into the combo would shake issues up significantly. If it does what it appears like and allows you to really choose up the place you left off and go off duties from one machine to a different — in a means that’d allow you to transfer out of your laptop computer to your telephone and again nearly seamlessly — effectively, that’d clearly convey a large productiveness benefit to anybody who makes use of an Android telephone and a Chromebook collectively. It might be a giant win for us as customers, clearly, and likewise a giant win for Google as it really works to emphasise the significance of the “Google ecosystem” and the good thing about utilizing its merchandise throughout totally different domains.
And as Google more and more works to convey Chromebooks into the enterprise whereas Microsoft concurrently revs up its personal Home windows-centric Android ecosystem, that may very well be an extremely well timed type of platform-connecting worth to pitch. Consider all of the Android-using companies which may all of a sudden be impressed so as to add Chromebooks into their arsenals as a way to create a extra full, handy, and environment friendly expertise.
Even past simply the enterprise, I imply, actually: Who amongst us would not work throughout totally different machine kinds these days — and who amongst us would not need the transition from one machine to the following to be extra seamless and friction-free? Microsoft is operating circles round Google on this space proper now, even though Google’s the one firm (whose title would not rhyme with Schmapple) that owns and controls a broadly adopted cell working system and desktop platform.
For now, all we are able to do is wait and see what occurs as this function makes its means from early improvement onward. Nevertheless it definitely appears prefer it has the potential to be an vital lacking piece of the puzzle — one that might end what Google began and produce Chromebooks and Android telephones collectively in a means that is lengthy been promised however but to be supplied.
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[Android Intelligence videos at Computerworld]
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