Google just announced that Chrome OS will open up to Android app developers this June. Google hopes that within a couple months, apps will move to a stable beta release and finally work on Chromebooks this spring. This announcement makes good on earlier leaks first spotted by 9to5Google that Android would be pulling the Google Play Store, along with its one million apps, into Chrome OS. That's huge, great, awesome news for lovers of Chromebooks (of which they are supposedly very many). Sundar Pichai talked about bringing Android to Chrome OS all the way back at Google I/O 2014. That promise resulted in a limited project, called App Runtime for Chrome, and brought a dozen or so apps like Duolingo, Evernote and Vine to Chrome OS
Now, you're getting all of them — that is if developers build the apps for the platform. Android developers breakdown how these Android apps will behave when running on Chrome:
- Android Apps can be shown in 3 different window sizes to allow the best experience
- Users can multi-task with multiple Android apps in moveable windows along with a full desktop browser, all within the familiar Chrome OS interface.
- Keyboard, mouse, and touch input will seamlessly work together
- Users will get Android notifications on their Chromebooks
- Android apps benefit from the Wifi or Bluetooth connectivity setup by the user or the administrator
- File sharing is seamless between Chrome and Android apps through the Files app
- Performance of demanding apps such as games or design apps is excellent
Chromebooks have always been an excellent cheap computing option, but it lacked a robust app store to make it a true laptop competitor. This changes things, though. Some apps won't be tethered to an internet connection like normal Chrome apps, making Chromebooks an online and offline machine. Of course, some apps that require smartphone-specific hardware, like GPS, might not work on a Chromebook at all.
Google says new high-end hardware for Chromebooks will be coming out later this year, specifically mentioning that Samsung will be designing hardware to take advantage of both Android and Chrome apps.
But from the looks of it, the positives far outweigh the negatives. Hopefully, this step toward OS integration also paves the way for Chrome OS and Android to work closely together on future hardware, like making a Pixel C that runs Chrome OS along with the Google Play Store included.
Don't get too excited quite yet. These apps still need to be optimised for the new platform and won't be ready until some time in the spring. The new feature will first appear on the Asus Chromebook Flip, Pixel 2 (2015) and Acer Chromebook R11 in June. But still, there are now a million new reasons why getting Chromebook makes more sense.