Google's Bigger Opportunity: Chrome OS, Not Android
1. Android came from nowhere in early 2009 to total domination in smartphone market share today, in almost every country around the world. That's like U.S. military strength from 1941 to 1945.
2. After some early stumbles, Android, in conjunction with its hardware partners such as Samsung and Asus most prominently, have finally started cracking the code on the tablet market with Nexus and other tablets. The market share is still moderate, but it appears to be gaining against the iPad every day.
3. Samsung, Acer and most recently Lenovo (LNVGY) are now stamping out Google PCs based on Chrome OS. While market share is modest overall, there is a breakthrough in the education market, and with the enterprise and consumer markets in sight.
So where does Google go from here? Will it simply continue to grow linearly in these three silos described above?
We have to examine the potential for Google's two operating systems, Android and Chrome OS. Let's start with the first important distinction, touch vs. keyboard.
If you are doing "typing" work, such as typing this article, working on a spreadsheet, creating a presentation or working with multiple browser windows side by side with each other -- or with large and/or multiple displays/monitors -- touch is not the right way to go. You need a keyboard and either a trackpad (laptop) or a mouse (desktop).
A finger simply isn't as precise at grabbing text, editing, pointing and selecting. In addition, your arms will go bonkers constantly reaching forward to a screen. The bigger the display/monitor, and the more of them you are using side by side, the worse the touchscreen scenario becomes.
On the other hand, a touchscreen is the dominant way to use a smartphone. More about the BlackBerry keyboard scenario later.
In between the smartphone and PC scenarios reside the tablets. Some tablets -- say, those smaller than nine or so inches -- will realistically be used in finger mode almost all the time. Larger tablets, such as the large/original iPad and some Windows 8 devices, can also be used in "convertible" mode, with a keyboard that attaches or folds.
What can we gather from this? Let's start with Android.
Android is suitable for almost every kind of smartphone, with or without keyboard, because the screen will most likely be touch-enabled. Android is also suitable for all sorts of tablets, because touch is optimal when it is used in non-keyboard tablet mode.
But what about Android for the PC desktop, where touch is not really necessary? There seems to be no incremental benefit from bringing touch to the PC desktop. As a result, we are not likely to see "traditional" laptops (i.e., those with "normal" fixed laptop form factors) using Android. That's the province of Chrome OS, such as the laptop on which I am now typing this article.