With Fast Pair expansion and PC integration, Google plugs vital ecosystem gaps — but we want to see more

Windows 11 AndroidSource: Nick Sutrich / Android Central

Whether it’s iMessage integration in macOS, fast file sharing via AirDrop, or the instant pairing of AirPods, the benefits of buying into Apple’s ecosystem across multiple device categories are clear. Despite Google’s dominance in mobiles around the world and the growing popularity of Chromebooks and Android TV, the company has not been able to offer such a hassle-free experience when using all these devices side by side.

That is about to change in 2022, as Google looks to make the various parts of its ecosystem work better together – and to integrate more closely with Windows, Apple offers similar phone-to-computer functionality.

Quick setup of Chrome OS for Android

Source: Google

At CES 2022 earlier this month, Google announced a number of new features designed to close this vital ecosystem gap, with the main focus on Android and fast pairing. The new features are far-reaching: Everything from automatic login to new Chromebooks with a Chromecast-like setup process via your Android phone to instant setup of Matter smart home devices from your Android handset.

While features like syncing messages and notifications on Chromebooks have been a thing for a while, Google’s ecosystem efforts for 2022 are far more ambitious than we’ve seen before. They target two main categories of pain points – setting up new gadgets and sharing between devices you own.

Apple-like interoperability between Google gadgets is finally starting to happen.

Google Fast Pair will hit Chromebooks and Google TV later this year, freeing more devices from manual Bluetooth pairing. And the mysterious combinations of button presses and on / off cycles involved in setting up new smart lighting will be made up for thanks to closer integration between Android phones and Matter gadgets.

If you’re like me, the most exciting addition may be the advent of Nearby Share support on Windows PCs, eliminating a great deal of frustration that does not exist in Apple’s ecosystem.

My enthusiasm for Nearby Share on Windows is dampened by the fact that it will only be supported on PCs from a limited number of manufacturers, at least initially. Nevertheless, all of these messages show that Google is taking big steps toward a world where, if you own Android or Google-powered gadgets, they can work together with minimal friction.

Windows PC + Android phone

Source: Google

Getting everything to “just work” with everything else will not be easy, nor will it happen from one day to the next. Apple, with the tight control it has over its entire product range, retains an advantage at the pace it’s developing new ways in which its gadgets can interact. But the breadth of features planned for Windows in particular – fast pairing of audio equipment, message synchronization and file sharing – is impressive, and you have to imagine it to be a case of when and not if this is open to any suitable pc.

It’s also interesting to see further blurring of lines between Android and Windows, following the arrival of Android apps on Windows 11 last year.

A possible cause Google do not want to support of every pc at launch is that it is getting these things right hard. For example, a look at Microsoft’s Your Phone Companion app reveals many of the same calling, messaging and photo sharing features, mixed reviews and a recent string of negative results from frustrated users.

It’s hard to get these things right, which is why Google is going slow.

Slow and stable

Google has a potential advantage just based on the fact that it is equal think on competing platforms like Windows, however. So could macOS be the next in line? Clearly, there is no way Apple would ever build this kind of functionality into its operating system. But a third-party app from Google could easily achieve the same results, enabling Fast Pair and Nearby Share for the many people who use an Android phone with an Apple machine.

The current solution for juggling files between Android and Mac is the (extremely bad) Android File Transfer app, last updated in 2018. If you’ve used it, you probably already know how flaky this app is, especially if you use an Android phone that is not a Google Pixel. A replacement is long overdue, and the excellent Google Drive app for macOS shows that it’s perfectly capable of building apps that are built into the Mac experience.

If the ecosystem wars of the last decade were about owning certain categories of devices – like mobile, desktop or tablet – the battlefield of the next decade could be centered around owning the wires that all these different categories of devices use to interact as a kind of “soft power” “over rival platforms.

With the latest expansion to Nearby Share, Fast Pair and Matter support, Google is well on its way to doing just that.

William

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