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8 ways Google is tying Chrome OS and Android together

Chris Hoffman | Oct. 21, 2014
Here are eight notable ways the lines between the two OS are beginning to blur.

USB file transfer
Modern Android devices use MTP (Media Transfer Protocol) for transferring files back and forth when you connect them to a computer via a USB cable. Chrome OS recently gained MTP support, so you can connect your Android phone or tablet directly to your Chromebook and copy files from it.

This is currently read-only, so you can only transfer files off your Android device to your Chromebook. Google wants to add MTP write support, so you could transfer files from your Chromebook to your phone. For example, you could download video files on your Chromebook and then transfer them to your phone over a USB cable, so you have something to watch offline without wasting your precious mobile data. This is also useful for airplanes!

Chrome tabs in Android's app switcher
Android Lollipop has a redesigned multitasking interface that shows Chrome browser tabs alongside your recent apps. You dont' have to pull up the multitasking menu and go into Chrome, then pull up Chrome's tab list and select the recent tab anymore. Google is trying to make web pages more integrated on Android so they can be just as convenient as standard Android apps, merging offline apps and online apps.

Material Design
Google's new "Material Design" style guidelines apply to everything the company does. (The previous Holo design was just for Android, while Google had a different design for its web apps.) Going forward, Android apps and web apps--for example, the Gmail Android app and Gmail website in your browser--will look much more similar. This also applies to Google's applications on other platforms, like the Google apps for iPhone and iPad.

Project Athena
Project Athena is a revamped interface--or "user experience"-- Google is working on for Chrome OS, which integrates the company's Material Design ethos. We don't know much about this, but some information is available in Chromium's bug tracker. One bug report says Athena will have an MRU (Most Recently Used) list that will "steer users away from closing content." Another bug says "tabbed content... does not exist anymore for Athena."

This sounds an awful lot like the application switcher on Android, so Chrome OS may be getting a more Android-like interface. We've seen one (very early and very ugly) screenshot that shows off this stacked multitasking interface. It's possible the simplified interface might be used on potential Chrome OS tablets or hybrids, while Chromebooks would stick with the more traditional desktop interface.

The future?
Chrome and Android are distinctly separate, but growing more intertwined by the day, powered by society's increasing reliance on the cloud. Google's even working on adding a feature that will let you remotely locate and wipe a Chromebook, just like you can an Android device. But unlike Microsoft, Google isn't trying to force it--or at least, it hasn't yet. And that's a big relief.


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