Chrome OS sits at a strange intersection of technology. It’s an alloy of Web and desktop, which does it little service for power users. The addition of Android apps for Chrome OS will help, and the sleeper hit may be gaming.
Logically, that means you’ll someday have a Chromebook that rivals a MacBook or mid-range Windows machine. Google needs Chromebooks that have better SoCs, more RAM and larger blocks of memory to access.
On a spec sheet, many top-end Android devices take most Chromebooks to task. It’s a hurdle Google will overcome, no doubt; it has become increasingly dedicated to Chrome OS in the past few years.
Google is playing games
While Google talks up Android enterprise and education apps for Chrome, those are loss-leaders. It’ll help with adoption, because Google can now better convince schools and businesses to deploy Chromebooks en masse, but it’s not great for monetization, and the average user simply won’t care.
Looking at Android (or any platform, really) app revenue, gaming is far and away the most profitable. A recent study showed that 90 percent of Android app revenue went to games.
You can play games on Chrome OS, but it’s not a great experience. You’re limited to the Web, and the days of Web-based games being good (they were never great) have come and gone.
Back when Google packaged its 3D engine into Chrome, pundits acknowledged the impact on gaming would be slow. Here’s how Steve Hoffman of RocketOn put it to GigaOm back in 2009:
Google will also face stiff competition in this area from a variety of Linux and Windows netbooks, which will work just fine with Firefox or IE…Maybe, if Google sticks it out, it can gradually gain a dedicated following around Chrome OS in combination with Google’s apps and services, and some of those users may take advantage of gaming on this new platform, but this is way off in the future.
That future never came.
While altruism is what Google will hang its hat on, gaming will prove to be the winning proposition for Android users as well as the company. It’s a gambit Apple recently tried with Apple TV, except Google is doing the heavy lifting for developers.
There are no new technologies to figure out, and Chromebook screen sizes won’t make games look completely distorted or ugly. It’s very close to the ‘write once, deploy everywhere’ pipe dream developers chase — or at least closer than iOS (and Windows doesn’t have the mobile scale for anyone to really care).
Once we have Chromebooks with specs that are level with top-end Android phones — and Android apps for those machines — gaming on Chrome OS makes infinitely more sense for users, developers and Google.