Can Android Jelly Bean, Google’s Chrome and Windows 8 ever play nice?

Features Richard Goodwin 11:21, 17 Feb 2012

How do Google’s Chrome OS, Windows 8 and Android 5.0 Jelly Bean fit together? We investigate

Some rather interesting news has surfaced concerning Google’s forthcoming Android 5.0 ‘Jelly Bean’ update.

According to sources in Asia, exposed on DigiTimes, Google will announce Android 5.0 at its annual Google I/O conference and release the software sometime in June.

Many immediately questioned the legitimacy of DigiTimes’ report, citing the site’s hit-and-miss track record with previous ‘rumour’ stories. Nonetheless, the points raised in DigiTimes’ report – regardless if they’re true or not – are interesting all the same, especially when viewed against the backdrop of what two of Google’s biggest competitors have been up to during the past 12 months.

Platform unification is the name of the game from here on out and Apple’s recently previewed OS X Mountain Lion update and Microsoft’s Windows 8 represent the sharp end of that stick. With this in mind we think it’s fairly safe to assume that Google has also probably been working on something pretty significant too, right?

Cue DigiTimes’ report, which claims that Google is in the final stages of merging its Chrome and Android platforms together for Android 5.0 – AKA Jelly Bean. Why would Google do such a thing you ask? According to DigiTimes it’s simple enough – Google wants Android 5.0 dual booting on Windows 8-powered tablets and notebooks.

Apparently Google intends to make OEMs choose between either Android 5.0-only devices or Windows 8-powered devices that will dual boot Android 5.0. Switching between Windows 8 and Android 5.0 will be seamless, says the source, and will not require the user to turn off or reboot the device.

‘Dual booting Windows 8 devices may have some value,’ said Rob Bamforth, principle analyst at Quo Circa, ‘especially if it’s a live switch. Imagine the benefits in the work place? You could use one OS for work and another for personal usage.’

It seems like a good idea on paper, almost logical – but as SlashGear points out: ‘Microsoft’s Windows 8 hardware requirements apparently block second OS installation on ARM-based PCs by users, thanks to a locked Secure Boot system, though it’s unclear whether OEMs are permitted to do so before the hardware leaves the factory.’

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Windows-powered devices that’ll dual-boot Android either. The ViewSonic ViewPad 10 used Windows 7 and could dual-boot Android 1.5 – it launched around the same time as the iPad 2.

This type of device hasn’t proved popular with users, however, but this is probably more to do with the fact that neither Windows 7 nor Android 1.5 were optimised for use on a slate device.

This will not be the case with Windows 8 and Android 5.0.

Android 5.0 Jelly Bean is reportedly landing in June. But with just over one per cent of Android users currently on the latest iteration of Google’s mobile operating system, many experts are crying foul of Google’s decision to release yet another version of Android.

‘Add to that the issue of keeping different versions of Android in sync across different hardware platforms,’ said Bamforth, ‘and users not sure about when and how they can update their operating systems and you have increasing complexity when competitors like Apple appear to be offering increasing simplicity..’

He added: ‘and while Apple’s way of doing things might be constraining and controlling, it doesn’t seem to bother the average user that much.’

Many experts claim that Google wants to do with Jelly Bean what it couldn’t achieve with Android Ice Cream Sandwich – it wants Android 5.0 to unify its ecosystem. Thing is, we don’t think Google will ever be able to do this. Thousands of Android handsets are produced everyday, the globe-over, by a multitude of different manufacturers. In a set-up like this how can Google realistically get all of its partners reading off of the same page?

The simple answer to that question is that it can’t – Android is too fragmented already – and adding yet another iteration into the mix is the software equivalent of attempting to spend your way out of debt. Just look at Motorola’s Android 4.0 update schedule, which was released earlier this week. Many of its phones aren’t getting the update until Q3 and Q4 of 2012.

Despite all of the above, we’re still very excited by the prospect of a tablet or notebook that’ll live switch between Google’s new Chrome-enthused Android 5.0 Jelly Bean and Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system. To us it sounds like the future, or at least something Google, which isn’t yet a fully-fledged hardware manufacturer, should be looking to do.

That said Google has a lot of stumbling blocks to conquer before something of this scope will become a viable reality.

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