Google Andromeda Might Be Too Little, Too Late

Google’s plan for a new OS is a fantastic idea, but one it will never pull off.

By John C. Dvorak

Recent rumors suggest that Google is working on a new OS, dubbed Andromeda, which will be compatible with Chrome and Android apps. On the surface it should become a universal replacement for macOS, Windows, Chrome OS, Android, Windows Phone 10, iOS, Linux, and more. I’m skeptical, though; just look at Google Glass or the screwball (pun intended) Nexus Q.

Let’s explain the Google problem. The company’s main revenue stream is advertising generated via search, the success of which allows other departments to fiddle around with so-called moonshots. This makes Google a great place to work — as long as the cash cow keeps generating cash.

Very few moon shots become cash cows. But there are remarkable inventions and ideas that Google continues to pursue. This includes the book scanning of the world’s libraries, the ongoing development of Google Maps and Street View, the autonomous car, Google Fiber, and the Android phone OS.

If there were a serious economic downturn, you have to wonder what Google would do to these expensive projects and what it would do to its workforce to refocus on the search-engine cash cow. My guess it that it would not be fun to watch.

This exposure is compounded by the overall company secretiveness. Ian Thompson of the Register, for example, mentioned on a podcast that Google would let him ride in an autonomous vehicle, but he couldn’t write about it. It’s all very Steve Jobs, and does prevent competitors from poaching employees. But it can also result in bungles because an objective third eye can catch blunders missed by rank-and-file employees who are often afraid to rock the boat.

I’m reminded of Texas Instruments and the 1979 episode involving the rollout of the TI 99/4 Home Computer. In short: Texas Instruments decided it was going into the home computer business. Rumors about its new killer computer were rampant, but nobody knew anything because TI kept everything under wraps. That included the media, many of whom were also hobbyists.

When it arrived, TI’s machine had no control key, slash key, or question mark key. It was unbelievable. The company had to dump millions of machines at $99 to get rid of them. The entire thing was a fiasco.

Google has similar tendencies. I’ve been advocating for a new OS for probably a decade or more, but I lost faith in the company when it developed its cloud-based Chrome OS, which was no replacement for Windows.

Google was active in 1998 and grew during the era of Windows 98, Windows ME, and then Windows 2000. For years, it had to see the vulnerability of Microsoft to a frontal attack. It had all the time in the world to take on Windows in a real way, but what did we get? Chrome OS — something that relies on an Internet connection and is essentially smart terminal software circa 1970.

Even the thought of Andromeda is too little, too late; it promises to be another Nexus Q.

Read more: “The Best Chromebooks of 2016


Originally published at www.pcmag.com.

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