There was a bit of truth when people – especially in the early days of mobile – said the iPhone was the best place to use Google apps. That’s definitely not the case on Android phones today, but I think part of that argument applies when comparing Google web services running on Chrome for Mac/Windows with ChromeOS. Thankfully, that’s starting to change on Chromebooks, as evidenced by the one-click Google Calendar integration.
ChromeOS 104 rolled out last week with a bunch of big UI changes, including a compact app launcher and a proper dark theme. The most monumental change, however, is how the month/day is now displayed in the bottom right corner of each screen.
Previously, you had to click on the time before you could see a thumbnail date display. Now users always see it, and a tap opens a month view that syncs with Google Calendar. You can scroll through and tapping on a day will show all events. Another click opens the Calendar.google.com PWA for all the details.
Having quick access to a monthly calendar for easy retrieval is already remarkably handy, and the fact that it syncs with Google’s service increases the utility exponentially. On ChromeOS, you could always visit the website or install the big-screen-friendly Android app, but other desktop operating systems have long offered quick access to a calendar view. It just took too long for Chromebooks to add this feature.
Before the feature was added, the absence reflected how services like Gmail, Google Calendar, and Photos worked exactly the same in Chrome for Mac, Windows, Linux, and ChromeOS. For years (after the novelty of offline access to Drive and Docs rolled out to the Chrome browser as well), Google’s operating system didn’t offer a meaningfully better experience for first-party apps.
Another example of a shift is ChromeOS 104’s integration of wallpaper picker into Google Photos for quick library browsing and personal auto-rotating wallpapers. It’s shocking that hindsight it took so long to implement, given that Google Photos on Chromebooks will also get a richer video editor this fall.
Earlier this year, the Android and ChromeOS teams previewed the latest Better Together features to better integrate your Chromebook and Android phone. Features like Quick Setup via Android, the ability to reply to chat apps from your phone, Fast Pair and Wear OS Unlock are coming soon.
They should be quite handy, but Google would do well to build integrations between ChromeOS and its most popular first-party services as well. Google Meet is a prime candidate considering how often we video call these days, while accessing Google Keep to create text notes could be more seamless.
When Chromebooks turned 10 last year, Google talked about offering more “intelligent experiences” that “[utilize its] artificial intelligence to proactively help people,” in addition to the cross-device integrations mentioned above. For my money, I would get more value from UX improvements and streamlined access to the apps I use every day.
It might be tempting (and easier) for Google to think of Chromebooks as nothing more than thin clients for the web, but we live in a time when competitors are doubling down on integrations that underscore the value of staying on the platform. ChromeOS needs to achieve that seamlessness and work better with the Google ecosystem.
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