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google robotTech pundits (including me) have been wondering about how Google’s Chrome OS will compare to Android and how the two operating systems fit into Google’s broader product strategy. Sundar Pichai, Google’s vice president of product management, took another stab at answering the question today.

The topic came up at a Chrome OS press event in San Francisco, where a reporter asked if Chrome OS might be a better operating system than Android for tablet. The Chrome OS pilot device and the consumer launch devices are netbooks, but Google has hinted that Chrome OS might work on other devices eventually.

Pichai answered that Chrome OS and Android represent “two different approaches to computing.” He noted that Google is making both operating systems available via open source, so both can (and have been) adopted by a variety of manufacturing partners.

“Having said that, we want the market and the users to use what they want,” Pichai said. “As long as it’s Google — both of them are Google products — we’ll be pretty happy.”

On the tablet question, Pichai said Google is moving “one step at a time” and is currently working with netbook partners. He noted that Chrome OS doesn’t require a physical keyboard to work, so theoretically it should work on a tablet.

Pichai also said that Google has to answer this question all the time. I would argue that’s because the answer seems to change. Initially, all the discussion of Chrome versus Android focused on phones versus netbooks, then it shifted to Chrome’s focus on the Web (it’s basically just a version of the Chrome browser that runs on a netbook) versus Android’s downloadable applications. Last month, Eric Schmidt said Google doesn’t want to impose an answer, but that “the Android solution is particularly optimized for things that involve touch in some form, and Chrome OS appears to be for keyboard-based solutions.”

Ultimately, the confusion may not be a huge deal. I suspect consumers will care less about how Chrome OS compares to Android and more about whether a Chrome netbook does what they want it to.

Front photo via Danny Sullivan

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