Feb 15, 2022 - Technology

Google, Microsoft blur lines between operating systems


Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Recent moves by Google and Microsoft show both companies aim to expand their respective reach by beginning to loosen the traditionally tight link between a computer and the operating system it runs.

Why it matters: Most people like using whatever app they want wherever they want it more than they care about operating systems.

Driving the news:

  • With the latest version of Windows 11, released on Monday, Microsoft is opening up access to the Amazon App Store, allowing Android apps to run on Windows PCs. (The feature was always planned for Windows 11, but its release had been delayed.)
  • Google announced Chrome OS Flex, an effort mainly aimed at schools and businesses, that allows a version of Chrome OS to be installed on older Macs and PCs.
  • Google is also recently said to have shown the ability in Android 13 to stream apps from a phone onto a PC or Chrome device.

Between the lines: Of course, Microsoft would rather users run Windows apps, and Google would love to sell more Chromebooks. However, both have strategies that go beyond their operating systems.

Flashback: Microsoft had a similar effort more than a decade ago to turn older Windows PCs into thin client computers.

  • There, though, the benefits were more narrow than what Google is offering with Chrome OS Flex — schools and businesses won't need to work as hard to adopt Chrome OS as they did with Microsoft's older scheme.
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