Developers can now code apps on Chromebooks, Google announced Tuesday at I/O, its annual developer conference held in Mountain View, CA. Support for Linux on ChromeOS will allow developers to create, test, and run any Android or web app for phones, tablets, and laptops on a Chromebook, Google announced. This means developers can run popular editors, code in any language, and launch projects to Google Cloud with the command-line, directly on the devices.

Chromebooks grew 50% in the past year alone, in terms of both units sold and active users, Google’s Tal Oppenheimer said in the developer keynote address at I/O.

Linux will run inside a virtual machine designed for Chromebooks, so it can start up in seconds and integrate completely with Chromebook features, Google announced. This means developers can start Linux apps by clicking an icon, can move windows around, and can open files directly from apps.

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The new tool will be released in preview on Google Pixelbook in the near future, Oppenheimer said. The move should increase the appeal of low-cost Chromebooks as a tool for developers, and make the devices more competitive in the enterprise with other PCs and Macs.

Another major announcement during the developer keynote was Jetpack, which updates how developers write applications for Android. Jetpack is a set of components and tools meant to speed and simplify app development, combining Support Library, Architecture Components, and others.

All components are also backwards compatible, and will work on 95% of devices. Those who tested the tool said it requires one third less code than in the past, Google leaders said. It was also designed to work with Kotlin. Jetpack is still in alpha for now.

Earlier in the day at I/O, Google announced MLKit, a new set of APIs available through Firebase. These are ready-to-use models, built on TensorFlow Lite and optimized for mobile, and run on Android and iOS. MLKit includes five out-of-the-box APIs, including image labeling and text recognition, which can run on devices or in the cloud. It is now available in public beta.

ARCore also got an update to include Sceneform, a new 3D framework that makes it easier for Java developers to create ARCore apps. The design allows developers to add ARCore features to apps that were already released, as well as those built from scratch in the platform.

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Another new capability called Augmented Images makes it possible to attach augmented reality (AR) content to physical images in the real world, so developers can compute the 3D presentation of an image in real time. Finally, new Cloud Anchors in ARCore allow multiple devices to see and interact with the same digital content in the same place at the same time, which will enable developers to create collaborative, multi-user apps. These updates are all available now for both Android and iOS.

On the design side, Google also announced Material Theming, a unified, adaptable design system that helps businesses use color, type, and shape consistently across their app or website. Material Theme Editor is a plugin that an help designers create and customize a theme, while Material Gallery is a tool to review and comment on design iterations. Both are now available.

Earlier at I/O on Tuesday, Google leaders also announced a new AI technology called Duplex, which helps Google Assistant make calls and schedule appointments for you. Several Android P features were unveiled, as well as AI tools that will make many Google services more useful for business professionals, including Gmail, Maps, Lens, and Photos.

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • At I/O 2018, Google announced support for Linux on ChromeOS will allow developers to create, test, and run any Android or web app for phones, tablets, and laptops on a Chromebook.
  • Google also announced Jetpack, a major update to how developers write applications for Android.