After years of speculation from the outside world, Google is finally merging its Android mobile ecosystem with Chromebooks. On Thursday, Google announced that it would be bringing the Google Play Store to three Chromebooks in June, with more to come.
For starters, Android apps will only be available on three Chromebooks: Acer Chromebook R11, Asus Chromebook Flip, and the Google Chromebook Pixel (2015). Although, Google has a master list of Chromebooks that will receive Android functionality in 2016 that can be viewed here.
Google attempted to bridge the gap between the two ecosystems in 2014, announcing a few select Android apps would be able to run on Chrome OS. However, this time it seems that over one million apps will be available to run on Chromebooks.
Chromebooks have been criticized for their lack of available applications in the past, and this new development brings a host of games and communication applications, as well as productivity apps to the platform. The Android apps will be able to run in fullscreen or windowed modes.
In the original blog post announcing the news, written by Chrome OS software engineers Dylan Reid and Elijah Taylor, users will be able to "make a Skype call, work with Office files and be productive offline—or take a break with games like Minecraft, Hearthstone or Clash of Clans."
The blog post announcing the news also hinted that there will be new devices coming soon, designed for this crossover of the Play Store.
Chromebooks are known for their necessity of always being internet-connected to work properly. However, as noted by CNET, many of the Android apps won't need constant connectivity to function. This includes Google Photos and Play Music, which means users can still listen to cached music even if they aren't connected to the internet.
This raises two interesting questions about this future integration. The first is whether or not we'll see Chromebooks with larger hard drives in the future to accommodate more applications. The second major question being if Google's newly-announced Android Instant Apps, which allows users to run Android apps without installation, will play a role in this merger.
It is worth noting, though, that certain Android apps that require specific sensors, like GPS, will not be available on Chromebooks.
The potential merger of Chrome and Android has been a long time coming, and it seems like it finally has some traction, which could be a big deal for both enterprise users and average consumers alike.
The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers
- The cross usability of enterprise Android apps on Chromebooks makes Chromebooks a more viable option for the enterprise, bringing a better cross-platform experience.
- The merger also could make Android more palatable to the enterprise, which has already showed greater acceptance of Chromebooks for their usability and security.
- Android apps availability also helps to cement the long-term viability of Chromebooks with added features and extended capabilities.
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- At Google I/O, Google plays social catch-up (again) with Allo, Duo, revamped digital assistant (ZDNet)
- Google launches its Slack competitor, Spaces (TechRepublic)
Conner Forrest has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.