Essentially, nothing has changed, said Google's Andy Rubin (pictured) at a US press conference on Friday for the US launch of the Android-powered T-Mobile MyTouch 3G smart phone, known in the UK as the HTC Magic. "You need different technology for different products," Rubin said, explaining Google's approach to product development means projects that might overlap aren't necessarily scuttled to protect the one that got there first.
Android is first and foremost a smart-phone operating system, found on products such as the new Hero and the older G1. But companies such as Acer and Asus are planning to put Android on netbooks later this year, and several others are rumoured to be following suit.
Chrome OS, however, is supposedly going to arrive on netbooks first when it's scheduled to be ready in the second half of 2010. So how should companies thinking about alternatives to Windows on netbooks navigate Google's operating system strategy?
Google's blog post announcing Chrome OS acknowledged the overlap. "Android was designed from the beginning to work across a variety of devices from phones to set-top boxes to netbooks. Google Chrome OS is being created for people who spend most of their time on the Web, and is being designed to power computers ranging from small netbooks to full-size desktop systems."
After a panel discussion, Rubin declined to get into specifics about how Android and Chrome would be presented to Google partners once both are on the market. But during the discussion he noted that Android is capable of handling complicated, specialised tasks that a browser-based OS may not be able to tackle.
For example, Android handles the complicated process of handing off an Internet connection between phone masts as you drive down the motorway, and carefully manages the power consumption of the system to extend the battery life, Rubin said.
Google is also planning to make social-networking technologies a major part of a future Android release, he said. Google recently released Android 1.5, known as Cupcake, and plans to keep the sweet-tooth theme going with code names such as Donut, Eclair and eventually Flan, but Rubin didn't specify which release will introduce heavier integration with social technologies.
Work continues on making Android suitable for home goods such as set-top boxes and even refrigerators, Rubin said. "Our team is working hard to define those profiles. We've done a good job defining those profiles for cell phones."
But the netbook situation remains murky. Is Google going to support two different operating systems for the mini-laptop market? As of yet, no manufacturer partnership equivalent to Android's Open Handset Alliance exists for Chrome OS, meaning -- unless that changes -- Google will have to do almost all the heavy lifting on Chrome development and support itself.
Update: A previous version of this article said that the T-Mobile MyTouch is known in the UK as the HTC Hero. This is not the case -- it's the HTC Magic. The Hero will sold by T-Mobile as the G2 Touch in the UK. It used to be called the G1 Touch. You can see how our confusion arose, but we apologise for it anyway.