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Operating Systems

Google: Chrome OS is 'here to stay'

The head of the Chrome OS project says there are no plans to phase it out, even though it might be mixed with Android, Google's mobile operating system.

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Chromebooks made up just 3 percent of last year's laptop shipments, according to market research firm IDC.

Richard Nieva/CNET

Good news, Chromebook fans. Google says it isn't going to let the metallic-named software that powers them get rusty.

Last week, the future of Chromebooks, the low-cost laptops powered by the search giant's Chrome OS, was called into question when The Wall Street Journal reported Google would fold the software into its Android operating system for smartphones and tablets. Such a move clouded the fate of Chromebooks.

Google, a unit of Mountain View, California-based Alphabet, has now thrown its support behind Chrome, software that runs computers by taking advantage of the cloud. Just to be clear: The Chrome OS is different from the Chrome browser, Google's popular Web-surfing tool.

"There's no plan to phase out Chrome OS," Hiroshi Lockheimer, who heads up both the Chrome OS and Android projects, said in a statement Monday. He added the software is "here to stay."

It's unclear how many people will actually notice. While Chromebooks have gotten generally favorable reviews , the stripped-down laptops accounted for just 3 percent of last year's laptop shipments, according to market research firm IDC. Very few make it into offices or homes, though schools have been enticed because of price tags as low as $150.

Google says 30,000 new Chromebooks are activated in classrooms in the US every day. Chromebooks made up almost 30 percent of laptops in the education market in 2014, according to IDC.

Still, Chromebook fans should expect the software to change over time. Lockheimer acknowledged that Google is "working on ways to bring together the best of both" Chrome OS and Android. Google has released technology that lets some Android apps run on Chrome OS, including Vine, Evernote and Duolingo. The company announced the tool, known as App Runtime for Chrome, at last year's software developers conference. Google now lets any Android developer use the tool, though it's still in beta testing.

Lockheimer said "there's more to do" with Chrome OS. For example, Google will release a new media player for Chrome, as well as a visual redesign to look like all of Google's other software products.

This is the second time Lockheimer has publicly come out in defense of Chrome OS. Shortly after the Journal published its report last week, he tweeted that the company remains "very committed" to the software.