Yesterday, we got our first official confirmation of Google's plans to bring Android apps and the Google Play Store to its Chrome OS. Strangely, that confirmation referenced an 'announcement' that the company hadn't actually made - but today, it formally announced its plans, which will see "over a million" Android apps made available on Chromebooks.
As Google noted on its Chrome Blog (notably referencing three Microsoft products in its announcement):
This means you’ll be able to download and use Android apps, so you can 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 same apps that run on phones and tablets can now run on Chromebooks without compromising their speed, simplicity or security. This is good for users and great for developers - in addition to phones and tablets, they will be able to easily bring their apps to laptops.
On its Android Developers Blog, the company explained some of the benefits that the new app support will offer:
- 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
Google will begin a limited preview for developers of Google Play on Chrome OS in mid-June, with support for three devices: the Acer Chromebook R11, Asus Chromebook Flip, and Google's own Chromebook Pixel (2015).
The company plans a general launch for Android apps on Chrome OS "later in 2016", and says that by the end of the year, all of these devices will be supported:
Chromebook 11 C740
eduGear Chromebook M Series
Chromebook 11 3120
Chromebook Pixel (2015)
Chromebook 11 G3 / G4 / G4 EE
|Samsung||Chromebook 2 11" - XE500C12
|Sector 5||E1 Rugged Chromebook|
Chromebook 2 (2015)
|True IDC||Chromebook 11|
|Viglen||Viglen Chromebook 11|
Developers can find out more about getting started with optimizing their Android apps for use on Chrome OS here.
The introduction of Android apps and the Play Store on Chrome OS is a significant step - and not just for owners of those devices. With a single move, Google is taking a big leap forward in offering a more complete software ecosystem, eroding some of the advantage that Microsoft has established in offering its own cross-device app platform with Windows 10.
Just like Universal Windows Platform apps, Android apps can run across a vast range of devices, but Google's introduction of those apps to its PC operating system fills in a significant gap in its software proposition, and signals its intentions to 'get serious' about competing more effectively across all types of devices.
Meanwhile, Microsoft has been working hard to make its software available across other platforms, including Android - and the fact that Google referred to three Microsoft products in its Chromebook announcement today is a testament to its success on that front. But it's not easy to overlook the fact that that success continues to strengthen its rivals, while potentially undermining the long-term success of its own platform.